teaching serve to kids?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by austintennis2005, Jun 25, 2012.

  1. austintennis2005

    austintennis2005 Semi-Pro

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    any ideas on how to progress a kid (say around 10) that has some motor skills and can get the ball in by just tapping it over the net from the 'frying pan' start...obviously they arent going to be able to learn to pronate their wrist at this point in their development to hit with topspin...

    i could get them to hit harder with more of a full wind up and continental grip but with out topspin and at their height they are just not going to be able to get it in like they can by just basically tapping it over the net..

    any idea would be greatly appreciated:)
     
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  2. KayFactor

    KayFactor Rookie

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  3. BMC9670

    BMC9670 Hall of Fame

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    I'm not quite sure I understand the goal. Do you want to improve the "frying pan" serve so that they can just play immediately, or do you want to develop a real serve for the future?

    It will take time and patience, but it's worth it to teach it correctly from the beginning. You'd be surprised at what a 10 year old can do with the right tools. I started building my sons serve about a year and a half ago, and now at 10 he has a pretty decent flat and slice serve.

    There are a lot of techniques to teach and practice, but the key is getting them use to the right stance, grip, prep, pronation, and step into the court. Break it down into it's parts.

    for the pronation, a popular technique is to have them stand against the fence and , with the proper grip, toss the ball and trap it against the fence. Good practice for the toss, timing, and pronation.

    After mastering this somewhat, have them start at the service line before moving back. It's a slow process, but worth doing right. Others will chime in with their techniques, I'm sure.
     
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  4. CoachingMastery

    CoachingMastery Professional

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    If you teach them a solid progression of learning the grip, swing path, and stance, you can teach kids to hit an "Advanced Foundation" serve at a very early age.

    After less than a month, most students can hit a hybid serve well, using the correct spin, correct spin axis, and understand how a ball will behave with spin. Most adults and older kids can learn this within a couple weeks if taugh correctly.

    The problem with most players is that they will revert back to more rudementary swing patterns in order "to get the ball in". You need to establish the grip and swing path first, then deal with aim.

    I usually start my younger players on the service line first as this helps them not feel like they need so much strength to hit the ball over. They can get the feel of the proper spin better from the service line.

    Here is a clip of me with an 8 year old, after about 6 months of playing. Within a few months, she was using a full size racquet. (Skilled tennis isn't about raw strength, but about technique.)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=384xpMoEp_0
     
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  5. CoachingMastery

    CoachingMastery Professional

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    This is great advice. Please listen to this! If a player continues to serve with an eastern forehand grip, using the 'waiter's grip' and facing the net, they will never master a more advanced, skilled or effective serve.
     
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  6. tennis_pr0

    tennis_pr0 Semi-Pro

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    You can teach kids to pronate. I teach 6 year olds to pronate. Obviously, have them use the continental grip. The what I have them do it start in the back scratch position. They swing the racquet up on edge twice, then the third one they open the strings. Then I have them pause for three second after the hit the ball, just for them to see if they are doing it correctly. Once they get the hang of this, then I teach them to make the loop, pause at the back scratch position, then hit and finish. Once this is done, then the full motion with no pause is taught. I teach this by using the throwing motion, having the kid mirror that motion, and me throwing the ball up for them so it is one continuous motion.

    This is just how I teach it of course, but for me ti is a natural three step progression that teaches kids to serve the correct way, and most kids don't have a problem with any of these steps.
     
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  7. goran_ace

    goran_ace Hall of Fame

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    I used the exact same method with kids when I taught.
     
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  8. t135

    t135 Semi-Pro

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    Other than the right grip, the most important thing is to teach them to keep the racquet holding elbow up. This gives them the foundation they need to build from long term. They can learn to loop their backswing later when ready...it's the next step in the backswing after the racquet and elbow are up. The racquet holding elbow has to stay up in the backswing. The best way to teach this is finish the toss in the "touchdown" position with both arms and elbows up...like a touchdown in football.

    The back scratch position with the arm/elbow folded up (or down I could say) creates problems that are hard to unlearn. It skips a super important step and it reinforces a low toss, no shoulder turn, a low elbow, elbow pointing in the wrong direction, and forehand grip. A lot of pros teach it but it's a poor foundation to build on, skips key steps in the service motion and forces players to unlearn bad habits from day 1.

    No offense meant to anyone who teaches contrary to this.
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2012
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  9. oldhacker

    oldhacker Semi-Pro

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    As a coach I agree with CoachingMastery. Teach them right from the start so as not to engrain any bad habits / bad muscle memory which they will revert to further down the road. I have got 6 year olds I teach hitting nice serves with pronation, pace, spin and placement from half way between the SL and BL - the mini tennis orange BL we use in the UK.

    First hurdle is to get them throwing correctly. I think you guys and gals in the US are better than most at that due to all the softball / baseball played from a young age. To teach I line up balls every 6 feet from the net to the back fence and get them to throw them over the net (starting from a kind of trophy position) moving back a ball each time they throw one over. You can also do this getting them to throw old rackets over the side fence onto the grass if you are brave and they do not have precious parents !

    I them move on to having them toss one ball up and try to throw another at it.

    Then to get them some rhythm going a stick 3 old balls in a tubigrip or old ski sock, tie a knot (for them to use as a handle) in the open end and get them to practice swinging it continuously. If you have hitch you soon find out as the balls will hit you ! You can progress from this to have them throw the sock over the net and then toss a ball up and try to hit it with the ball end of the sock.

    When it gets to putting the whole thing together the toughest bit for young kids (and many adults) is achieving a well placed ball toss. To get them going I will often kneel beside them and toss balls for them to hit starting the racket in the trophy position. The best visualisation I have given them for this position is to tell them to imagine they are brushing their hair with the strings. To practice the toss I stick a big ball bucket on the court in front of their front foot and get them take turns trying to toss so that the ball lands in the bucket.

    For a kid struggling with pronation I have founds a couple of useful exercises to be have them stand at the net with their racket on edge, have them hammer the net cord a few times with the edge of the frame then get them to start of edge and hammer down and pronate so that the racket face hits the net cord. You can then do the same with a ball so that they hit it down into the court.

    GL
     
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  10. nabrug

    nabrug Rookie

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    http://www.tennisicoach.com/
    Steven Martens: Developing serve for beginner to intermediate players.
     
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  11. charliefedererer

    charliefedererer Legend

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    You may want to consider the following:
    Serve Doctor's Simplified Spring-loaded Serve Technique http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ixx-MCC7D88

    It has the shoulder and hip wind that will power the ball.


    Keep that tossing arm up until ready to hit.
    It's not too soon to learn vertical shoulder over shoulder action like Jim McLennan describes to prevent shoulder issues:
    Preventing Rotator Cuff Injury http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTRvxaBMh8s



    The following exercise can be done separately to learn how to pronate:
    McCraw explaining a serve pronation exercise http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iONY6fcqZGg&feature=related
    Especially pay attention to the limits on reps.


    Keep the racquet well to the right side as Coach McCraw describes in this video, or the arm won't be in position to pronate from right to left.
    McCraw Serve Fundamentals http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuIgTyh4aDs&feature=related
     
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  12. austintennis2005

    austintennis2005 Semi-Pro

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    thanks everyone for the great feedback!! will try these things...
     
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  13. BMC9670

    BMC9670 Hall of Fame

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    Thanks CoachingMastery! Big fan of your books and advice here on the boards. I would love to get your take on my son's serve.

    He first learned to serve at 7 in a group clinic where they did not correct his pancake grip and had the kids start from the back-scratch position. He not only had a hard time changing grip, but in trying to add a full motion, he would go immediately to the back-scratch (racket-drop), creating a massive hitch. It took a lot of work over about a year and a half to get it to where it is now - correct grip, smoother motion, and pronation. He just turned 10 and it's starting to work:

    http://youtu.be/dXixrppTWJs

    (sorry for the short clip - he doesn't like it when we film!)
     
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  14. CoachingMastery

    CoachingMastery Professional

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    I don't see the hitch as a big of a problem as his grip change on the back swing. He starts with a continental grip but, as I often see with players taught an eastern forehan grip first as you mentioned with your son, he consciously or otherwise shifts the grip in his back swing position to the waiter's grip/position. I'll bet he has trouble getting the right spin especially on his second serve.

    I had a top level player come to me after a year in Florida who was actually doing this and no one corrected him there the whole time. And this was a world-class player! (Kim Clijster's hitting partner when she became #1 in te world!)

    You will want to take the time to slow his swing down (put a dime in the palm of his hand as he is setting up with the continental grip...I'll bet it falls out on his back swing showing he is shifting his grip.) He will need to consciously hold the correct grip and feel the right spin and swing path to over ride his tendency to do this.

    He looks like a really nice player at this stage, so I would really focus on correcting he grip and swing path issues so it dosen't hamper his progression.

    Best wishes to him!
     
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  15. BMC9670

    BMC9670 Hall of Fame

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    Thanks for this! It's great to have trained eyes that can see that happening (especially on a poorly shot video). The dime trick is genius as it's really hard to change something you don't realize your doing. I'll give it a shot.
     
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  16. jk816

    jk816 Rookie

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    My daughter had the same problem (changing from conti to EFH mid stroke). We did the dime thing; it didn’t solve the problem, but did pinpoint when the change was taking place (during trophy). It was definitely a mental thing; if I had her ghost swinging into the back screen, she didn’t change, but go to hit a ball—bingo!).

    Many of those I see hitting with a pancake or FH grip seem to have a low contact point and the mental aspect seems to make them feel they need the FH grip to put strings to the ball with any force (not knowing that pronation comes automatically with the correct overhand throwing motion-think outfield throw, not infielder)

    In my daughter’s case we (mostly) resolved it by using the hammer analogy; grip the racquet like a hammer (conti) get the toss in the right spot (critical but often tricky) and try to drive the “nail” (ball) with the edge of the racquet (mitigates the instinct for forcing the strings forward). If the toss is in the right spot (high enough and a bit in front), they won’t be able to hit with the edge, the natural inward rotation /pronation of the arm of the will bring the strings in contact.

    It helped for flatter serves; adjustment in contact point would be needed for spin serves. I say mostly fixed, for sometimes when she really wants to pound a serve hard, the switch thing will come back. Again it’s largely mental!
     
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  17. BMC9670

    BMC9670 Hall of Fame

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    Thanks for the advice. I used a similar analogy; "slice the tomato (conti), then splat the tomato (pronate). I didn't see that he was changing grip during the motion. I saw something wasn't quite right, but wasn't sure what it was.

    Your right about it being mental - it's really hard for kids to change something they don't realize they are doing.

    I'll give these things a try. Thanks!
     
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  18. Ash_Smith

    Ash_Smith Hall of Fame

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    BMC, hope you don't mind me chipping in. For me there are a couple of issues...

    First one is, as Dave points out, the grip change during the backswing. I'm sure the coin in the palm is a good trick (though i've never used it myself), I like to put a pen under the index finger base-knuckle to anchor the grip, but it serves much the same purpose.

    This leads to problem 2, if you pause the video at 13 seconds you can see the strings starting to open up to the sky, which tends to lead to the player 'flipping' the racquet at the ball. I like the strings in a more closed position at the trophy.

    Finally, I'm not a big fan of the knee bend during the initial backswing, I assume it's their as a rhythm thing?

    hope that makes sense?

    cheers
     
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  19. CoachingMastery

    CoachingMastery Professional

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    Love the "Slice and Splat" analogy! I use "At the ball" and "Across the ball" but love the tomato images!
     
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  20. CoachingMastery

    CoachingMastery Professional

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    Jk, good points and thank you for sharing your own experiences...I'm sure it will be of help too!

    Yeah, the dime trick isn't a solution, it simply let's the player feel the grip consciously and identifies where the change is usually occuring which is part of the correction process.

    Good stuff!
     
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  21. user92626

    user92626 Legend

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    I'd like to ask the teaching coaches here if it's worthwhile (and correct) to teach keeping the elbow in, close to the body and point more to the ball's direction before extending your forearm to contact the ball?

    That was my latest realization. A lot of weak servers that I see keep their elbows pointing to the side fence before they hit the ball.
     
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  22. BMC9670

    BMC9670 Hall of Fame

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    Not at all, Ash - always glad to have constructive advice!

    I see the open strings you point out and I think that's a result of both the grip change and the leftover habit of starting from the racquet drop and pushing at the ball. I will watch for this as I help him iron out the issues.

    The knee bend is something he's always done naturally and I hadn't really thought about it. It does seem to help his rhythm and toss consistency. Is there a long term detriment in doing this?

    Lastly, I want to state again how hard it is to change bad habits. When he first learned to serve, I was sidelined with shoulder surgery and had him in 6 months worth of group lessons. I'm kicking myself now for not investigating the quality of the coaching. Now, it's just him and I, and while I'm not a pro coach, I try and research as best I can and continually seek advice from (read; stalk) those who are - guys like you and Dave. I do appreciate it!
     
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  23. austintennis2005

    austintennis2005 Semi-Pro

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    you guys were right, i got both my 10 year olds today to generate some topspin on their serves within 5-10 minutes... i dont know why i thought that it would be so hard to teach them how...thanks for all the input~
     
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  24. t135

    t135 Semi-Pro

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    If that's where their elbow is pointing then they aren't turning their shoulders properly. The elbow shouldn't point to side fence except briefly right around the point of contact and after contact on the follow through. The shoulders go through a full throwing motion with 180 degree shoulder rotation or a little more if you have the flexibility. The elbow goes with them.
     
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  25. widmerpool

    widmerpool Rookie

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    Just tagging along...

    I've had my 8-year old use the balls in a sock.

    Now I'm seeing a lot of instruction with the racquet just coming up straight with the palm down and a slight wrist bend. Seems like you have to choose one way or the other. The balls-in-the-sock doesn't seem compatible with that "Roddick motion".
     
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  26. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    As others who have posted here, I discourage novice & intermediate servers from taking the easy route by serving with an EFh grip and the waiter's tray serve. As Steven Marten suggests in his approach, I will often have students employing a semi-continental grip, particularly if the conti grip appears to be too "weird" for them. Most students who start off with a semi-conti grip will usually have no problem switching to a full conti grip later on (as their serve motion develops). Marten talks about the starting grip about 11 minutes into the video:

    http://www.tennisicoach.com/node/1081
    .
     
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