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The Tennis Business Discussion Forum Archive

[tennisbiz] Reply to posts of March 14, 2001

From: Joe Dinoffer <>
Date: Thu 15 Mar 2001 06:15:28 -0600

<x-charset iso-8859-1>I am going to post comments to the three requests. Hope all readers are

Joe Dinoffer

To Tal:

Perhaps we met when I was in Israel doing workshops for the coaches at the
Israeli Tennis Centers? I think I remember your name but am not completely
sure. I was there three times between 1997 and 1999.

Regarding games and drill, I am sending below a thorough outline of a
presentation I have done for the USPTA consisting of 10 competitive drills
for juniors I have written. It will help you a lot, I am sure. If you want
more or like videos, I just produced "Skills, Drills, and Thrills" which is
a two-volume set containing 150 game-based drill and games situations for
advanced players. It's probably perfect for what you are thinking about. I
also send out a free monthly email containing two games or drills each
month - go to to sign up - no strings attached.

To Jane:

Tennis Direct was doubt out by one company after another and the last one
MVP was one of the recent dot com tragedies. Sports Direct may be
resurrected by the founder, Greg Backus. Wait and see is the word I have

To Bob:

What kind of promotional flyers are you writing about. I may have some ideas
for you.

Best regards,

Joe Dinoffer
Oncourt Offcourt, Inc.

Top Game-Based Drills to Create Tough Competitors
By Joe Dinoffer, USPTA, USPTR, ITA

1. Tennis Poker - This idea is terrific for a social event as well as
adding an extra dimension to any practice session. Just bring some playing
cards to the court and pass out playing cards for each point won, playing
any type of card game desired or create your own, like the first player to
reach 100 points wins. In this scenario, each picture card would be worth 10
points and an ace would be worth 11. To create added excitement, you may
even want to show the players the card that they are competing for. And,
like a large number of the drills in this video, this game works well for
doubles as well as singles.
2. Practice Making Errors - This next practice exercise has players doing
something they seldom do: Intentionally make errors to help them learn how
to deal with them. For example, in the middle of a match-play training
session, a third player or coach can call out "miss" or blow a whistle.
Then, whoever's turn it is to hit the ball must intentionally make an error.
They are then either one additional point further behind or one point less
in the lead, forcing them to cope with a new mental situation. The idea is
that often players get distracted after making an unforced error, something
inevitable in tennis. This drill gets them used to reacting to this
inevitable circumstance with renewed focus. And, obviously this game can be
also played with doubles as well as singles.
3. Three-point Gamble - Now let's move to a game which works well with two
players playing singles points as we are now demonstrating, or with four
playing doubles. The player about to hit a shot can, at any given time, call
out "winner" before they hit the ball. If they hit a 100% clean winner, they
win three points. However, if the opponents simply touch the ball or they
miss, they would lose three points. The obvious benefits are that the
players will begin to look for opportunities to hit winners and play more
aggressive tennis. Instead of regular scoring, I would suggest playing games
to 15, or 21 points to keep the scoring simple. Just rotate serves at set
4. Use your Big Weapon - This next drill is another baseline game to 15, or
21 points. Before it starts, each player must pick one weapon, for example a
forehand, backhand, or volley. When they win the point with their weapon
they get three points. If they use any other shot to win, the point is worth
just one point. This is a very effective game-based drill because the
players start to realize their strengths and try to use them more often. At
the same time, the savviest player will be careful to avoid their opponent's
strength as much as possible.
5. Black Hole - Now to a drill called "Black Hole," a terrific game to help
players see the court tactically. Place a chair on the center T on each side
of the court and sit one player in the chair while their partner plays. For
less advanced players all the seated player has to do to win the point is to
touch the ball with his or her racquet. But, for more advanced players, they
must volley it into play to win the point. In this case, if they hit a
volley in the net or out, their team would lose the point. Another way to
win the point is simply when one player either hits a winner or makes an
error. When the seated player wins a point for their side, he or she becomes
a baseliner. This will motivate the seated players to be highly active with
their racquets in trying to intercept incoming balls. I suggest starting
this game with a bounce-hit from the baseline with the team who won the
previous point starting the next one. An additional note is to allow the
receiving team of the first feed to reject the feed. This keeps overly
enthusiastic players from trying to hit outright winners on the first shot.
6. Wild Card - "Wild Card" is the next competitive game to demonstrate. It
works well for a variety of levels and also adapts to any drill where score
is kept by counting single points instead of traditional tennis scoring.
Just have the coach or another player call out "wild card" or blow a
whistle. Then, whether a point is just about to start or the point is in the
middle of being played, those points score double for the winner, as long as
the point ends with a clean winner. If the player going for a winner loses
the point, he or she would only lose one point. This drill is an excellent
way to get players to experiment and gamble a bit while still being
conscious that if they miss they will lose the point as well.
7. Allowable Errors - In tennis, the number of "allowable errors" should
neither be too many, or too few. In other words, players should know that
they can afford to miss a certain number of shots, and they should be aware
of that number. It should be challenging, but achievable. Here's a way to
increase player awareness of allowable errors on-court: Two players play a
practice set. Each time a player makes an error, he or she can mark it down
on a piece of paper on the side of the court. Or, if you have extra practice
balls, just have the players put a ball in the fence representing each of
their "allowable errors." In this example, we have players of slightly
different abilities. One is assigned eight allowable unforced errors and the
other player, 12. If the players stay within their "allowable" number of
unforced errors, they will feel like they have succeeded. As they progress,
gradually reduce the number of "allowable errors" allowed.
8. Erasing Allowable Errors - As a follow-up to the last exercise, you can
make it even more of a positive experience by giving the players a chance to
"erase" their errors. Whenever a player hits an outright winner, that
success erases one of the errors. With our simplicity charting method of
placing balls in the fence, it is very easy to keep track of this additional
dimension to an already terrific idea.
9. Seven - Eleven - This next exercise is called "Seven - Eleven." It's a
simple crosscourt serve-and-volley game using half the doubles court.
However, since the server has such a huge advantage he or she starts out
behind 0-7. The first player to reach 11 points wins. This is another
excellent exercise to help players improve their doubles skills just through
this game-situation drill. Players who play tough in drills like this are
undoubtedly tough in real match play. To conduct the same game-situation
exercise with four players, have two pairs compete crosscourt and just
alternate play so that, for safety, two balls are not in play at the same
time. You'll find there will really be no down time at all since as one team
is recovering for the next point the other pair will be playing.
10. Five Balls - The next game is called "Five Balls" and begins with five
balls on the ground at the net on each side of the court. All four players
begin on their respective baselines and a spin of the racquet decides which
team will start by running to the net and feeding the first ball into play.
After that, the team who wins the point feeds the next ball, and the first
team to feed all of the balls on their side of the net as well as win one
final point when they have no balls left, wins the game. The only additional
rule is to allow the receiving team to reject the feed. This forces the
feeding team to hit a returnable feed on the first shot. This game-based
drill is as much fun as it is fast-paced. Just one more creative idea to add
to any practice session.

Received on Thu Mar 15 2001 - 10:55:06 CST

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