Ankle Biters ExtraCurriculars

Category Archives: Tennis Games

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Many parents believe they must pay a professional to help their young children learn the sport of tennis. For a child to hit a moving ball with a tennis racquet, spatial awareness of where the ball ‘is going to be’ is as necessary as the hand-eye coordination to physically swing the racquet.  And since most young players change their strokes many times before they are 13 years old, a parent can initially introduce some extremely important skills to their own children without breaking the bank! For a child to learn that other objects move regardless of whether or not the child moves is crucial to their spatial development.  Young children often bump into other children, adults, and even inanimate objects they didn’t even notice.  How is a child supposed to watch a ball bounce, track where it will be in and then swing their funny little stick to strike this…

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As I discussed in the Tennis for Children: Bounce-Catch article, having a child catch a ball is probably the most basic way to introduce spatial awareness. This introduces ball tracking and the hand-eye coordination responsible for much of the skill set a young tennis player requires. As we move on from “bounce-catch” to “bounce-hit,” the timing is what translates for the child.  The child will learn to wait for the ball to bounce and enter the hitting zone before attempting to strike it with their racquet. Make it fun!  Have your child try to hit something with the ball.  This requires a bit of aim which means the child should be facing perpendicular to their target.  The phrase that I use in this situation is “point your toes.”  Pick one side of the court (or basement, or garage, or driveway) and have the child “point their toes” to that spot. …

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One of the easier concepts for a young Ankle Biter to learn (however difficult to remember) is to stand facing perpendicular to their target.  A good phrase to help the child remember how to stand in preparation for “bounce-hit” is “Point Your Toes.” This is a simple transition from the initial preparation for “bounce–catch” which expects the child to be facing you.  In that case, they will “point their toes” at you as you toss the tennis ball to them. Here are the basics for “Point Your Toes”: Have your child face you while you face your child Now your toes should be ‘pointed’ at their toes After your child learns the phrase “point your toes,” you can set them up facing any direction you wish (forehand, backhand, etc) and bounce a ball to them from other locations.  Simple reminders like “Where do you point your toes?,” “Is your racquet…

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The last game we play with preschoolers each lesson is called Frozen. This game is like desert after a meal for kids. You can’t show the kid ice cream before they have eaten their dinner or the ice cream is all they will want. Here is how it works: First, they have to collect all of the tennis balls we have used and place them in the basket Next, I play “Let it go” (Song from the movie Frozen: Idina Menzel) and they all start running away from “the Snow Monster”. It’s basically freeze-tag with snowballs. While listening to the Let it Go, they have to avoid the snowballs flying at them. They can’t hide so they have to be fast. If they are struck with a snowball they have to freeze in place and wait for a friend to tag them to get un-frozen. Instructors get to pause the…

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We have a game we play first and foremost before we ever get started with our lesson plans in the preschool tennis programs. This game is called “Tornado!” All we had to do was, one time, video the children playing the game and play it back for them in a ‘time lapse’ scenario and they thought it was hilarious! The ability to see yourself and your friends running around in ‘fast forward’ is quite entertaining to anyone, much less a group of preschoolers. Here is how it works: First, they get in a line behind me for a game of Follow the Leader Next, I play the “Troll Song” (Can’t Stop the Feeling – J Timberlake) and they all start running around in a circle. I have now turned the children into a little kid-tornado! While listening to the Troll Song, I tell them to follow me no matter how…

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Tennis for Children: Smash! Transition Game Many of the compliments we have received from other teaching professionals have to do with the transition timing we have built in to our lesson plans. We have developed a few games for children (and adults who like to improve their game) can play after emptying a basket of tennis balls but before going to pick them all up. One of my favorites is called “Smash!” After hitting a basket of Forehands and Backhands, or especially after working on the serve, play a quick game of “Hockey” to roll all of the tennis balls into the net (on one end or the other).  Now, here is what you do: Smash! Place the racquet in your child’s strong hand Have them set it on their shoulder, behind their head (like a serve) Place the ball in your child’s weak hand Palm up, have them attempt…

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Tennis for Children: Catchy Bug Formerly: “Smash the Bug” Do you remember when you were young and having the coordination to ‘pat your head and rub your belly’ was a wonderful achievement?  Well, learning the service motion, for a young child still building their coordination, is much like asking them to ‘pat their head and rub their belly.’ One of the most popular training games for children to learn the serve is called “Catchy Bug.”  If there is an easier or more efficient way to train a young child to toss a ball above their head and swing ‘overhanded’ at the ball, I would be surprised.  Here is the concept: Catchy Bug Place the racquet in your child’s strong hand Have them set it on their shoulder, behind their head (like a serve) Place the ball in your child’s weak hand Palm up, have them attempt to toss the ball…

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Tennis for Children: Balance the Ball.  Don’t Let it Fall! A wonderful way to teach a young tennis player the relationship between the racquet and a tennis ball is to have them balance the ball on the racquet strings.  This builds strength, coordination and understanding of the “ball and stick” relationship.  Many young children can grasp this concept quickly but others will need significant assistance. As simple and easy as this may seem to an adult, you may be fairly surprised to learn that balancing a tennis ball on a tennis racquet is quite difficult for many young children. Here is an easy plan to help: Have the child place their racquet flat on the ground Place the ball on the strings so they can visualize level Have them lift the racquet off the ground attempting to keep the ball on the strings When the ball falls off – place…

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