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Top 5 Tennis Drills To Evaluate Players

Top 5 Tennis Drills To Evaluate Players

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A skill set that any outstanding tennis coach displays is the ability to evaluate a player’s technical, physical, and mental attributes. And while evaluating a player’s skill is critical, far more important is the ability to design and deliver a program that improves the player’s further.

When analyzing the stroke of any tennis player, the coach must take into account the overall context of the player’s history, game style, and level of playing experience. In saying that, every tennis player receives feedback by playing the game, and this “raw” learning process should never be overlooked.

But there’s no doubt that for players to reach their peak performance, they require the support of an experienced coach who can design and deliver an effective training program.

How Can I Evaluate a Tennis Player?

A tennis coach must consider factors such as an athlete’s coachability, mentality, work ethic, and of course, skill level. When evaluating a tennis player’s skill level, focus on these categories: technique, agility, balance, hand-eye coordination, and explosiveness.

Tip: Under each category, write out 3-4 specific metrics within that category to evaluate. For instance, under the category agility, metrics would be: acceleration, deceleration, and pivot.

What Are The Steps to Conducting a Tennis Evaluation?

1) Limit your instructions

As a coach, the last thing you want to do is “bombard” players with instructional advice, especially considering most of the time it’s unwarranted. This is where an experienced coach can prove to be invaluable, as they’re able to pinpoint which techniques need correction and those that can wait. 

A good example is serving. Time and again, I’ve seen coaches try to address technical problems such as insufficient wrist snap. But more often than not, this has little to do with technique and is generally caused by a wayward ball toss. There’s no use addressing the wrist snap if the ball toss is not corrected first.

Establish relevant evaluation criteria

First and foremost, your sporting organization needs to be crystal clear on exactly what the tryouts are trying to achieve. Without clear-cut goals and objectives, it’s virtually impossible to design and deliver a training camp or tryout session that is of any value to the club or player.

Ask yourself, are you prioritizing skill level, athleticism, and personal traits? Or are you simply looking for players who can play in a specific position? These are just some of the questions that need to be answered before deciding on evaluation criteria.

3) Create an Effective Program

Once you have prioritized the technical issues, you can develop a long-term plan designed to improve the player’s performance. I would recommend taking a simple approach to not overwhelm the player with new information. Remember, complexity is in simplicity.

To evaluate players’ skill levels, you can have them run through several different drills that look at all aspects of the game, not just technique.

So let’s take a look at five drills I’ve used to test and take junior and professional players to more than 7 National titles and 15 International wins.

Top 5 Tennis Drills

Tennis Drill #1: Rally in the Alley

  • Category: Tennis forehand & backhand drill
  • Purpose: Developing consistent stokes on the forehand and backhand side
  • Time: 15 to 20 minutes
  • Equipment: None needed
  • Players A and B line up on opposite sides of the net in the tram lines.
  • Players then rally with Player A only hitting forehands and Player B only hitting backhands.
  • Players count any ball that lands inside the tram lines and then total their score at the end of 5 minutes. After one set is complete, players switch sides.
  • Top Tips: The coach should emphasize correct technique, good footwork, and early preparation.

Watch this tennis rally drill in action

Tennis Drill #2: Keep the Ball Deep

  • Category: Tennis rally drill
  • Purpose: To consistently keep the ball deep with good height and placement over the net
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Equipment: None 
  • Players start by marking off a shaded area at the back of the court.
  • Player A starts the rally by dropping and hitting the ball to Player B.
  • If Player A’s ball lands short of the shaded area, then they lose the point and are replaced by Player C.
  • The drill is only completed when one team reaches 21 points. Two or four players can complete the drill. 
  • Top Tips: Players should focus on plenty of height over the net and use a variety of spins.

Tennis Drill #3: Slice and Dice

  • Category: Tennis singles drill
  • Purpose: Developing the slice backhand and learning to move your opponent
  • Time: 3 to 5 minutes max
  • Equipment: Cones, lines, or targets
  • Player A positions themselves in the backhand corner and then starts by hitting the ball to Player B.
  • Player A then continues to rally by hitting the ball to any of the four targets placed by the coach.
  • Player A can only use their backhand slice when hitting the targets.
  • Player B can use any stroke necessary to keep the ball in play.
  • Top Tip: Because of the amount of running player B might do, the coach must ensure player B rotates every 3 to 5 minutes.
Tennis player mid action shot

Tennis Drill #4: Serving to Targets

  • Category: Tennis serving drill
  • Purpose: Developing the variety and accuracy of the player’s serve
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Equipment: Targets or Cones
  • The coach places 6 targets, 3 in each service box.
  • Players take turns trying to hit each of the 6 targets with their 1st and 2nd serves.
  • Top Tip: This drill is difficult, so emphasize having fun and not giving up.

Watch the “Serving to Targets” drill here

Tennis Drill #5: High Ball / Low Ball

  • Category: Tennis volley drill
  • Purpose: To practice identifying the different heights of balls and then choosing the right volley to play
  • Time: 5 to 10 minutes
  • Equipment: A full basket of balls
  • The player positions themselves at the net in their ready position.
  • The coach then feeds a full basket of balls, with each ball varying in height and speed.
  • If the ball is low, the player plays the shot crosscourt;
  • If however, the ball is higher above the net, then the player can play the ball to any area of the court. Continue until the basket is empty.
  • Top Tip: Remind players to track the flight of the ball quickly, getting their feet into the ready position using the split step. Coaches should also provide constant feedback on the decision-making of their player’s volley. 

See how the “High Ball/Low Ball” drill is performed

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FAQ — Tennis Player Evaluations

SkillShark is a leading evaluation software and app designed to assist coaches in assessing and improving the performance of tennis players. It streamlines the evaluation process by providing instant feedback reports after each assessment, saving coaches valuable time compared to traditional data entry into spreadsheets.

Yes, SkillShark is a versatile tool suitable for evaluating athletes in various sports. While this blog focuses on tennis, SkillShark can be applied to multiple sports, making it a valuable resource for coaches across different disciplines.

Getting started with SkillShark is easy. You can request a free demo to learn how the app works and see if it suits your coaching needs.

There are no strings attached to trying out SkillShark, and the demo will provide you with valuable insights into its features and benefits.

• Customize evaluation templates
• Score athletes on your mobile device
• Instantly access player data
• Provide player report cards
• Compare & rank players
• Draft teams on the app

Absolutely! SkillShark is suitable for coaches at all levels, whether you are working with beginner-level players or professionals. The customizable templates and flexibility of the app make it adaptable to your coaching requirements, regardless of the players’ skill levels.

SkillShark is versatile and can be used for both individual player evaluations and team assessments. Coaches can tailor the evaluations to meet their specific coaching objectives, whether they are working with individual players or entire teams.

Yes, SkillShark can be used for tennis evaluations across various skill levels, from youth players to professionals. Coaches can adapt the assessment criteria and templates to suit the developmental stage of the players they are working with.

If you have any more questions or need further information, don’t hesitate to reach out to SkillShark’s support team for assistance at support@skillshark.com

You can measure tennis players on skills such as:
• Technique
• Power
• Agility
• Endurance
• Strategy

Michelle Corry

Michelle is SkillShark’s dedicated marketing cognoscente. She is an avid athlete, dedicated professional, marketer and creative visionary. Michelle lived and breathed sports most of her life, being awarded athlete of the year back in early 2000, including a rugby scouting invitation from Team Canada. SkillShark has changed her perception entirely in terms of what she thought was possible in sports evaluation today.