September 2008 -- One of the advantages, aside from the fun factor that a Cardio Tennis class has over group fitness activities, like spinning and yoga, is its ability to continuously reinvent itself. Cardio Tennis allows for flexibility in the core curriculum and the thousands of drills that can be used.
Here are some ways to add a twist to your class while creating a guided-discovery learning experience at the same time. Players will learn and improve through Cardio Tennis with little to no formal instruction through:
- Hitting lots of balls while moving
- Guided discovery
- Learning to adjust through positioning
As you set up your groundstroke cardio drill, have the players aim to one of the four squares on the opposite court. The deuce service court is square No. 1, the square behind the deuce service court is square No. 2, the square behind the ad service court is square No. 3, and the ad service court is square No. 4. You might have the first ball go deep to square No. 2 and the second ball short to square No. 4. You can use numbered cones to indicate the four squares.
Using the squares will add a measurable strategy to the students' shots without affecting the high-energy aerobic flow of the drills. The use of the squares will also provide a measure of control and competition if the players keep score as they direct balls to the targets given by the instructor (two balls to the chosen squares equal 1 point or whatever point value you choose to assign).
If the cardio coach has a student who is always over-hitting, this exercise will discourage over-hitting while encouraging depth and directional control in the true spirit of Cardio Tennis. The students may even change the type of spin they use to direct the ball to the shorter and deeper targets.
Mean what you say -
When you use volleys in your cardio drills, ask the students to "touch the volley" or "direct the volley" rather than "hit the volley" and you will find they will not swing at the ball but keep a more controlled racquet on the volley. You may continue using the four squares for targets as indicated earlier. This will allow you to introduce depth and direction control and everyone will enjoy more success and get a better workout.
Ask a player to "toss" a forehand or backhand and you will most likely get a topspin shot with an arc and good spin. Ask a player to "hit" a forehand or backhand and you will most likely get a flat shot that is ripped out of control. Use the correct word and be amazed at the results without disrupting the flow of your cardio class.
12-step program -
Ask your students to move their feet and they will give you a blank stare and nod in agreement. Indicate how many steps you want them to take and you can get results.
The pros average 10 to 12 steps between shots and high school or low-level college players average about eight to 10 steps between shots. A 4.5-4.0 player will average about six to eight steps; a 4.0-3.5 player, four to six steps; and a 3.0-2.5 player will average just over two steps between shots.
Ask your students which level of play they would like to achieve and have them move accordingly during and between the drills. We all know that every 12-step program is a self-help program and this one is no exception.
The "power of the circle" and adjusting steps -
Have the players start behind a cone on the court for either groundstrokes or volleys. Feed each student a ball (to the right for right-handed players using forehands), have each player move forward beside the cone and, upon contact, direct the ball to one of the four squares. After contact, have the student shuffle past the cone to his or her left and shuffle back behind the cone to get ready for the next ball.
This movement pattern around the cone will allow students to experience the "12-step program" used by high-level players without teaching during the cardio class. Using the cone to manage how fast students return to the hitting position allows them to learn how to stay in motion before, during and after a shot.
Attention to attention -
As the students pause to check their heart rate monitors, first ask them, "Are you in the zone?" Then ask them, "On a scale of 1 - 10, how high is your attention or focus level?" If their attention level is 8-10 they are experiencing a "competitive" level of focus. If their attention level is 5-7 they are in a "social" level of focus and may play up and down in their games. If their attention level is 4 and below, they are lucky just to be there. Students can use this in practice and match play to evaluate quickly, following a won or lost point, why they probably missed their shot or for that matter, made their shot.
Three speeds to success -
At the start of a class have a student demonstrate how hard he or she can contact the ball - and still keep it in the court. That racquet head speed will be called "level 3." Next have the student demonstrate the racquet head speed used to rally six to 10 balls in a row. That will be called "level 2." Finally, demonstrate the racquet head speed called "level 1," which has the ball contacted slowly with a lot of spin, and has a complete follow-through and a looping arc to the ball.
All drills can now be controlled by the instructor calling out the "level" at which the student is supposed to contact the ball. The students may also select the "level" of speed they want to use by calling out the speed before the ball bounces on their side of the court.
Topspin and the "other spin" -
Vary your drills by designating which kind of spin you want the players to use in the drill. For example, you might have them hitting a topspin forehand to square No. 2 (deep behind the deuce court service box) and underspin forehand to square No. 4 (into the ad court service box) as they move across the court from their ad court to their deuce court.
Without telling them how, you are helping them to experience how to use different spins to put the ball at different depths in the court. You might have them hit a forehand groundstroke from their deuce court deep to square No. 3. You might also feed them a short ball to their ad court and have them use underspin, sending the ball as a backhand approach shot deep to square No. 2 or a dropshot short to square No. 1.
The use of the squares helps to explain direction and depth as well as when and where to use spins.
Here are two examples of how to incorporate the seven steps for a new twist to your Cardio Tennis programs.
You might set up a dead-ball drill with the following instructions: forehand deep to square No. 3, level 3 speed, and backhand deep to square No. 2, level 2 speed, eight steps between shots, four balls each, rotate out to circle the cone and measure your attention level on a scale of 1-10.
A live-ball drill might be set up the following way: Bill and Ken, 20-ball rally, square No. 2 to square No. 2. Ken, level 2 speed with 10 to 12 steps between shots, topspin only. Bill, level 1 speed with eight to 10 steps between shots and underspin only.
When the drill is over or the players stop to check heart rates, ask them to rate their focus or attention level on a scale of 1-10. A self-rating of 8-10 means they are competitive and that will help them stay focused in match play. Because we all know: "Tennis is a very moving experience."