When it comes to performing tennis drills for beginners, there is a whole range of drills that can be done with both kids and adults. Basically, the same applies to children as to adults: start with the basics and improve with growing experience on the tennis court. Nevertheless, when choosing your drills, you should of course take into account the physical requirements of the students, so that you don’t demand too much or too little. In this blog post I would like to introduce you to the 10 most important tennis drills for beginners and give you general tips when training with beginners.

This is what you can expect from this blog post:

1. General tips when training with beginners
1.1 Sticking to the Play & Stay concept
1.1.1 Tips for adult tennis beginners starting without a coach
1.1.2 Tips for beginner children who want to start without a coach
1.2 Don’t demand too much or too little
1.3 Clearly communicate the need for movement
1.4. Do not set too many different focuses per lesson

2. The most important tennis drills for beginners
2.1. Running ABC drills
2.2. Eye-hand coordination drills
2.3. Coordination drills for beginners with racket and ball
2.4. Cooperative play in the service court with the coach
2.5. Drills with coach feeding
2.6. Cooperative game forms

3. Summary

1. General tips when training with beginners

Now, before you get started and look at the individual drills, I want to tell you a few important things in advance. Here are my general tips when doing tennis drills for beginners:

1.1 Sticking to the Play & Stay concept

A very important factor in tennis training with beginners is the Play & Stay concept. The Play & Stay concept is an initiative of the ITF, which was developed in 2007 to make learning to play tennis easier. The focus is on the training material to be used, such as balls and rackets, but also on the size of the court on which the individual stages are to be played. The ITF has divided the individual stages into different age groups, always assuming that a child wants to learn to play tennis. But what do I do with adults who want to start playing tennis? There, of course, I also work with the individual stages. This means that I can also work with adults in Orange Stage with orange balls. It always depends on the motor skills the players already have.

ennis Play & Stay Balls
Using the right balls is an important key to success when doing tennis drills for beginners.

There are adult beginners for whom catching and throwing the ball is no problem, perhaps because they already practice or have practiced other ball sports, or perhaps they have good coordination skills. But there are also adults who feel overwhelmed even with the simplest tasks. And here you should clearly reduce the distances, use pressure-reduced balls, so as not to overwhelm the players. With beginner children, I recommend that you always work at the recommended stage, although it can also make sense here to stay in an easier stage for a year, depending on their abilities, or to jump up a stage with very talented players. At the end of the day, it is up to the instructor to correctly assess the abilities of his students and then determine the stage accordingly.

1.1.1 Tips for adult tennis beginners starting without a coach

As already mentioned, the Play & Stay concept makes sense. If you are starting out in the tennis world without a coach, start as an adult with Stage 2 (orange, 50% pressure-reduced) or Stage 1 (green, 25% pressure-reduced) tennis balls. You will see, there will be much more rallies. You will not be able to handle many game situations with the normal tennis balls and this will result in more errors – consequently the frustration factor will also increase. Nevertheless, it is recommended that beginners make their first tennis experiences under the guidance of a trainer. Often you get used to suboptimal stroke techniques without a coach, which are very difficult to correct later. Therefore, learn the basic techniques with the coach and in addition to that, play on your own.

1.1.2 Tips for children who want to start without a coach

The classic situation: the child wants to try tennis and the mother or father takes the child to the tennis court. Again, please make sure you choose the right balls and also the right racket. It raises my hackles when I see beginner children playing with their parents, sometimes with adult rackets and normal tennis balls. The child can’t hit the ball because it can’t handle the high bounce of the ball. The racket is much too big and too heavy to allow a good contact point at all. This will end in frustration and the child will lose interest in tennis sooner than you would like. So start with the right racket size and the right balls. In the following video, I have summarized what is important when choosing the right tennis racket. Start with the right balls and the tennis drills for beginners, which I will present to you later in this blog post.

1.2 Don’t demand too much or too little

As already mentioned in the Play & Stay concept, you must avoid over- and under-challenging when practicing tennis with beginners. When doing drills with beginners, you should always first concentrate on the basics, which are essential in tennis in order to be able to play tennis with a partner. Because that should always be your first goal: to make it possible for the children, teenagers or adults to play together back and forth without making mistakes. Here is an example:

Not good:7-year-old Max has his first tennis lesson today. The coach puts Max on the other side of the net and plays balls to him with the racket, which Max is now supposed to hit back.

7-year-old Max has his first tennis lesson today. The coach gives Max easier coordinative tasks to get used to the ball and racket. For example, hitting the ball upwards with the racket, bouncing the ball, catching the ball, and gives other fun tasks to help him get used to it. If it turns out that Max is also overwhelmed here, the coach works with balloons, for example, to slow down the game even more.

It is also important to slowly increase the level of difficulty. If I notice that Max no longer has any problems with the tasks set, I make the tasks more difficult, e.g. work at a greater distance or offer more advanced drills.

1.3 Clearly communicate the need for movement

“Tennis is a movement sport,” I don’t know how many times my tennis coach at the time told me that over and over again. Man, he was right! Because movement is the be-all and end-all of tennis. Without a good movement, without the willingness to move, you will have a bad position hitting the balls, which is always one of the main sources of error in tennis. Therefore, in tennis drills for beginners, you should teach from the very first lesson onwards that movement is a main component of the sport.

Tennis Footwork Drills
Tennis drills for beginners should always include movement drills.

I’ve often seen coaches leave this component out at first and focus primarily on stroke execution and technique. But what is the consequence? The player will later lack basic movement, which is absolutely necessary to be able to hit the ball flawlessly. When doing tennis drills for beginners, I always recommend to immediately teach elements of footwork. The student should already know after the first training lesson what a side step and a split step is and should have completed some running drills.

1.4 Do not set too many different focuses per lesson

A basic rule for tennis training is always: Put the emphasis in you lesson on several important aspects. I would like to mention this rule again here, because it is especially important for tennis drills for beginners. Concentrate on coordination and ball feeling in the first lessons. Go into technical details only in the following lessons and start, for example, with the forehand. A structured approach could look like this:

Training plan for a beginner group:

1st lesson: running drills and coordination drills with ball and racket
2nd lesson: repetition of lesson 1 – first cooperative drills in the small court
3rd lesson: repetition of lesson 2 – teaching of forehand technique, drills & application
4th lesson: Consolidation of forehand technique – Technique acquisition and technique application – Cooperative game forms

2. The most important tennis drills for beginners

2.1 Running ABC

As already explained in my general tips, teaching movement is a very important part of beginner training. The trainer should do drills with the students that include forward and backward movements, but most importantly, train the lateral footwork that will be needed later for the footwork back to the angle bisector (defensive footwork). Here are some motion training drills that you can use in your training:

Line Run:

Line running is a great way to warm up in large groups and it practices all the important movements for tennis. The movements are always on the lines, with one exception. Lateral movements are done with sidesteps, forward movements are performed with normal forward running, and backward movements are done with backward running. The drill is also perfect for group training with large groups and offers plenty of room for variation.

For example, in my video “Tennis Training After Knee Surgery – Lesson 3”, I show line running at the beginning in a variation for advanced players as well. As I said, this drill is very modifiable.

5-line warm-up

A great tennis drill for beginners is the 5-line warm-up. Similar to the line run, the warm-up is based on lines. Starting from the doubles sideline, the players run down all the lines. A variety of coordinative tasks can be given (e.g., running with ball bounces or guiding the ball with the foot). This drill is also perfect for group training, even for large groups. In one of my “Drill of the Week / Drill Time” series, I show you how the drill works.

Warm up with numbers

Here, the players run laps around the tennis court. The coach assigns a task for each number. For example:

1 = Running forwards
2 = Running backwards
3 = Sidesteps
4 = Tappings
5 = Jumps

The players now run in a circle and the coach keeps calling out numbers and the players are now to perform the number task. A great drill that also trains concentration and reaction. In our professional video production “160 Drills for Coaches & Players” with my teammate Timo Goebel, I introduce you to this drill in the first chapter and also show other drills that you can also do with beginners. You can watch a trailer of this video here:

Drills with the agility ladder

The agility ladder is a great tool for improving footwork and movements that are important for tennis beginners. You can also combine the agility ladder with coordination training. Jumps according to the coach’s instructions, speed training, agility training, but also the practice of stroke techniques is possible and useful with the agility ladder. But see for yourself, in this video I show you 30 drills with the agility ladder, which are also suitable for tennis beginners.

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2.2 Eye-hand coordination

Eye-hand coordination is very important in tennis drills for beginners. Correct ball anticipation, ball handling and dexterity are must-haves for any tennis player. All the more important to practice these things with beginners. With the tennis ball the most different things can be trained here. Below you will find a list of drills that I consider especially important:

  • Drill 1: Throw the ball with one hand and catch it.
  • Drill 2: Throw up and catch 2 balls at the same time.
  • Drill 3: Throw 2 balls at the same time: Throw ball 1 with the left hand and catch it with the right hand, throw ball 2 with the right hand and catch it with the left hand.
  • Drill 4: Like drill 3, but now try to make the balls meet in the middle and then catch them again.
  • Drill 5: Throw up 1 ball, head it and catch it again.
  • Drill 6: Throw up 1 ball, touch the ball with any part of the body (e.g. knee, foot, head) and catch again.
  • Drill 7: Throw 2 balls straight up and catch them with crossed hands – and back again.
  • Drill 8: Throw the ball up, turn 360° and catch it again.

Great partner drills for beginners can also be done in this form:

  • Drill 9: Player 1 and player 2 simultaneously bounce the ball and have to catch.
  • Drill 10: Player 1 bounces the ball on the ground to player 2, player 2 throws the ball directly to player 1.
  • Drill 11: Both players throw 2 balls at the same time and catch it.

2.3 Coordination tennis drills for beginners with racket and ball

If you want to find out what motor and coordination skills your tennis beginners already have, then coordination drills with racket and ball are best suited for this. As a coach, I already have an idea after a few seconds where to start with the beginners when I have them do these drills. Again, there are easier drills, but also drills that are very challenging.

Here are my 10 most important drills with ball and racket:

  • Drill 1: Play the ball upwards with the forehand face of the racket.
  • Drill 2: Play the ball upwards with the backhand face of the racket.
  • Drill 3: Play the ball up with the backhand and forehand faces of the racket alternately.
  • Drill 4: Bounce the ball up with the forehand face of the racket without the ball hitting the ground.
  • Drill 5: Bounce the ball upwards with the backhand face without the ball hitting the ground.
  • Drill 6: Bounce the ball upwards alternately with the forehand and backhand strokes without the ball hitting the ground.
  • Drill 7: Balance the ball at eye level while moving.
  • Drill 8: Bounce the ball twice directly upwards, let it touch the ground and bounce it again twice upwards.
  • Drill 9: Bounce the ball upwards and try after 3 touches to play once with the frame upwards.
  • Drill 10: Bounce the ball down and move around, keeping the racket above the ball at all times.

Again, great opportunities to work together as a team:

  • Drill 11: Ball is bounced up by player 1, next ball by player 2.
  • Drill 12: Ball is bounced up on the racket of player 1 without touching the ground. The ball is now played to player 2, who must also keep the ball on the racket before playing it back to player 1.
  • Drill 13: Player 1 stands with his back to player 2. Player 2 plays the ball up and calls “Hop” and also turns with his back to player 2. Player 1 must turn around and play the ball up again, outs “Hop” and turns around again. And so on…

2.4 Cooperative play in the service court with the coach

In this form of drill for beginners, the players first play with the coach. The coach makes sure that the ball always returns optimally for the player. Therefore, the first rallies are possible between beginner and coach, which directly provides motivation for the students. Possible drills here would be:

Stopping and playing on

The student must first stop the ball before playing it back to the coach. This can then be done with several variations, for example:

  • Drill 1: Stop with forehand and play over the net with backhand, or vice versa.
  • Drill 2: Stop from the air and play over the net.
  • Drill 3: Stop from the ground and play from the air over the net.

Introductory drills with tasks in the service court

Drill 1: Life ball – The ball is played back and forth with the coach. At the same time, a second ball should always be thrown back and forth (only useful with beginners who can already play together).

Drill 2: – Picking up and putting down the ball: The ball is played back and forth between the coach and the student. After each stroke, a second ball must be picked up off the ground and put back down.

Drill 3: – Stop and continue with the hand: The ball is always stopped with the left hand and then played with the racket.

2.5 Drills with coach feeding

In the further course of training with beginners, there should also be drills with coach feeding. This is certainly the case especially when the technical aspect of the training is more and more taken into account. So if the trainer has started with teaching forehand and backhand strokes, the first drills can be played with coach feeding. The “easy to difficult” system is again suitable for teaching forehand technique, for example.

  • Drill 1: The player gets e.g. balls dropped and the coach holds a racket in front of the player. The player should now already swing with a high loop, swing under the coach’s racket, and hit the ball to the other side.
  • Drill 2: The coach takes away his racket and lets the balls drop again.
  • Drill 3: The coach throws balls to the student and the student must perform the same stroke sequence moving to the ball.
  • Drill 4: The trainer plays from the opposite side with the racket (larger distance) and the player has to perform the same stroke sequence.

I recommend this procedure for teaching forehand and backhand technique and it has proven very successful for me.

2.6 Cooperative game forms

In the last part, the first cooperative game forms can already be made with beginners. Here it is very important to make sure that the drills start with very simple tasks.

  • Drill 1: Stop and continue playing with each other.
  • Drill 2: Player 1 hits a ball cross, player 2 hits this ball longline – all together.
  • Drill 3: Player 1 throws the ball over the net to player 2, who hits it back so that player 1 can catch the ball.
  • Drill 4: Try to play the ball three times without making any mistakes. Afterwards the rally starts. The first points are played against each other.
  • Drill 5: A suspender is played: One side always plays cross, the other side always plays longline. If a mistake is made, the roles change. Does the team manage to play 3 complete suspenders in a row?

In addition to these game forms, the coach can also intervene here again and again and drills can be done with and against the coach. Suitable drills here include

  • Drill 6: The coach plays back and forth with the students in the small court and the two students have only one racket, which must always be handed over after each stroke.
  • Drill 7: The players try to play the ball over the net 10 times without making any mistakes (small court or large court, depending on the level of play) or play back and forth with the coach in table tennis mode (always taking turns hitting) for as long as possible. The coach stands on the right half of the court and each hit by the students into that half counts for one point. Students can now save their high-scoring points by shouting “SAVE” BEFORE hitting the next ball. The ball must then be played to the other side (more difficult: into a target area). If the student hits, the score is saved. If the student does not hit, the team falls back to the last secured score. Goal: Can the players manage to save 15 points with 30 balls?

3. Summary

In conclusion, as a coach, you should make sure that tennis beginners go home with a sense of achievement, especially in the first lessons. Especially in the first trainings, many beginners decide whether they want to continue practicing the sport or not. Therefore, your tennis drills should be chosen carefully and your training should be well-planned. Motivate your players to keep playing, make sure they have a sense of accomplishment in every lesson, for example, a managed drill goal or a won game form. I wrote a blog post giving you valuable tips for tennis training as a coach. If you are a coach, I highly recommend this article.

Until then, I wish you a lot of fun trying out the drills in your next training session. See you soon, Martin.

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