The USTA No-Cut Coach Advisory Team and 2006 Starfish Award winner offer some solutions to the some of the most frequently asked questions that have come into this site. If you have successful practices and/or solutions that you have used with your teams that might help your colleagues please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Do you have examples of how high school coaches determine a starting line-up? This sample is from Tiger Teusink and the Michigan High School Athletic Association Tennis Rules and Policies: Establishing a Justifiable Line-up (click on link to access document).
2. Practices for Large Groups
Do you have suggestions and formats for working with large groups of players of multiple levels of ability on limited courts?
Editor’s Comments: The USTA has developed a resource entitled, Top 10 Games Every Coach Should Know (www.usta.com/top10games). This animated series of drills is intended for rookie coaches, mid school and high school coaches, and tennis instructors who are responsible for conducting team practices and group lessons for beginning, intermediate, and advanced players. The activities chosen were able to meet the following criteria: 1) handle 4-8 players per court, 2) be operated by the coach or the students, 3) adaptable to various skill levels, and 4) Able to integrate technical and tactical issues. Strong ball feeding skills are not required! In addition to the online animated drills, the following link includes several additional resources for coaches regarding basic strategies, creative match play scenarios, effective drilling guidelines, and a team practice formula on how to organize practices with limited courts and multiple players of diverse abilities (www.usta.com/rcwhandouts).
Dave: At Brookfield Central there are 9 courts. Our freshmen practice at a junior high facility and we try to schedule at least one team for an away match each day. Our varsity team, (15 players) will practice on 3 courts with the remaining teams each getting 3 courts each. We will invite three different players from our varsity reserve team to drill with us each practice to: 1) expose them to our top players, 2) reward them for special effort, 3) motivate them for the future 4) observe their current level of skills. This gives us 18 players on three courts. Our drills are designed to accommodate 6 players per court. All players rotate courts at very short intervals to: 1) prevent cliques from developing and 2) to have each player drill with everyone else during the practice to see different levels of ability and quality and styles of play.
During the summer, before classes are in session, we have 4 practice times: 8 am, 10 am, 1 pm and 3 pm. When school starts, our lower junior varsity teams divide their 2 hour 30 minute practice session into two 1 hour 15 minute session, because each team has 30 players. We call them White JV A and B and Blue JV A and B. This fall we have 118 girls in our program. We have Varsity, Varsity Reserve, White A and B, Blue A and B and freshmen teams.
Sarah: I like to run the same drill for all kids, but I break the kids up on the courts according to ability. As the drill progresses, I add tougher requirements to the stronger kids and am always modifying things for the weaker players if needed. Running different versions of the same drill allows the kids to feel like they are all part of the same team.
Jeff: I divide the players up into groups of 8. Ideally, I want to have a feeder - who could be the head coach, an assistant coach, or a volunteer coach - on each court. We try to do a lot of fast-moving 2-on-2 drills so that at least 4 players are always hitting at one time. Players who are waiting for their turn to hit may be stretching, doing push-ups and / or sit-ups, running in place, or engaging in other kinds of conditioning.
3. Match Play
How do I schedule and involve large numbers of players into match situations?
Editor’s Comments: The most common solutions offered by team coaches include:
1. Staggering practice and match times for each flight of players on the team
2. Offering “farm team” matches on Friday afternoons and weekends
3. Using shortened scoring formats for challenge matches and match play practice (pro-sets, 4 game sets, no-ad scoring, 2 out of 3 tiebreakers, etc.)
4. Using Team Singles and Team Doubles Games in practices (refer to Top 10 Games resource)
5. Arranging exhibition matches with local adult league teams of comparable abilities
6. Hosting weekly round robin and/or non-elimination tournaments for players using shortened scoring formats
Dave: All JV teams have their own schedule of at least ten matches with other schools. We also play matches within our program since we have so many teams. We use “Two out of Three sets, with a match tiebreak for the third” in most cases. We also use the 8 game pro-set.
Sarah: All the kids play a pro-set (JV level), and then everyone gets at least one match if not more. We score a match on 2 singles and 4 doubles at JV level, but if time permits, we play as many matches and as many kids as we can. Obviously, additional coaches (paid or volunteer) make this possible. A varsity coach can't run his varsity and handle all JV matches without help!
Tiger: The top 12 play 2 out of 3 sets and the rest play an 8 game pro set. We felt that this was an appropriate format as the top J.V. players have the greatest potential to "move in" to Varsity positions. Having the others play an 8 game pro set will give them the experience of competition and also to have the feeling of belonging to the team. The disciplines of "being on the team" are so vital.
Jeff: My assistant coaches and I have started an intramural league to involve more players in matches. Last spring, the top 22 players in the boys’ tennis program played on the varsity and JV teams. The other 30 players were grouped into 6 teams of 5 players for our league. Each intramural team played 3 matches per week at a 6-court facility. A match lasted 1 ½ hours and took up two courts, so all six teams were in action at the same time. For example, Team A faced Team B on Courts 1 & 2, Team C played Team D on Courts 3 & 4, and Team E competed against Team F on Courts 5 & 6. The 1 ½-hour match was divided up into 3 30-minute segments. Each segment consisted of singles matches and / or doubles matches. Players completed as many games as possible within 30 minutes and then rotated. Typically, each player on a team competed in 2 of the 3 segments. We posted league standings on our tennis program’s Web site and purchased awards for the players at the end of the season.
4. Fielding Competitive Teams
How do you devote enough time to the more competitive players on the team when you are dealing with additional beginner/novice players every day?
Editor’s Comments: As mentioned previously, practice times can be staggered between different flights of players to ensure adequate time is spent with all team members. It is understandable that all the players may not be able to practice at the same time. Assistant coaches, volunteer coaches, and player mentors are another effective way to increase the base of support available to manage multiple students. The USTA offers No-Cut Team support grants to help cover stipends for assistant coaches and related expenses for keeping larger team rosters.
Dave: Recruit volunteer coaches (under contract) from parents, former players or adult players in the community. They may have to be part time and work in teams of coaches to cover the different days of the week. Teams can be formed within your program. The number on each team can fit the size of your program and the number of courts available. For example, 5 courts: Teams of 7 players, 3 singles and 2 doubles. Try to have equal ability on each team so when they play each other, the competition is challenging. Have a parent or volunteer coach for each team and play a round robin schedule. Match time can be after varsity practice has been completed. This will make it easier for you to obtain adult help (after their work day). If you had 6 of these teams in your program, it would provide competition for another 42 players
Sarah: We split varsity and JV practice time. Less kids at varsity practice allows for more individual help, such as doubles strategy. More kids at JV practice still allows everyone to practice, but less specific help as they are really working on basics and just happy to hit a ball!
Jeff: The key to our developing the better players while still providing opportunities for the less experienced kids has been scheduling the players in shifts. Fortunately, I have access to two tennis sites, with 5 courts at our primary site and 6 courts at the secondary site. We ask our players to report to different sites at different times. For example, I may practice with my varsity at one site from 3:15 PM to 5:30 PM, and then I’ll bring in a group of JV players from 5:30 PM to 7 PM. Meanwhile, an assistant coach may help me with the varsity practice and then go run the intramural league at the other site while I practice with the JV team. Another possibility may be that I’ll drive a group of varsity and JV players to an away match – I have a bus driver’s license that enables me to take a school bus – while an assistant coach runs drills and / or matches at one of our practice sites, and the intramural league meets at our second site.
Thank you to the following individuals for contributing to these Most Frequently Asked Questions:
High School No-Cut Advisory Team members:
Dave Steinbach, Sarah Miller and Tiger Teusink
2006 Starfish Honoree, Jeff Holman
Jason Jamison, USTA National Manager School Tennis