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Tennis Anyone?

Managing practice time

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Preparation for the season must begin long before the first day of practice. Managing practice time efficiently and effectively will help your players improve their tennis and fulfill their potential. You should work from a master practice plan that varies little from year to year, add more detail and specifics in a weekly plan, and finally flesh out the schedule for each day in a daily practice schedule.

Most high school tennis seasons vary in length from 12 to 16 weeks. It’s probably helpful for you to divide the season into three distinct units: the preseason, regular season, and championship season. The activities and priorities within each of these periods can change significantly, and separating them will help you focus practice sessions on specific instructional objectives.

The preseason is the time to focus on player fitness, including strength, power, flexibility, and endurance. Tennis technique should be evaluated, although major changes in style should be done in the off-season, not the preseason. Principles of percentage tennis need to be stressed in classroom sessions, drill situations, and simulated match play. This is the time for your players to make sure they understand and can apply the basic strategic concepts of both singles and doubles.

During the regular season, you need to develop a maintenance program for physical training. Running should be for short distances, with emphasis on footwork, balance, and explosiveness. Emergency “first aid” ( this is a typical coaching term) should be applied to tennis shots or strokes that cause problems in competitive matches. A major emphasis during this time is on dealing with the pressure of competition (winning and losing). You should also help players concentrate on performance goals rather than the outcome of matches and help them improve their skill in planning and executing a specific game plan.

During the championship season, you should shorten the length of practices and allow more time for rest. Your players should train physically by eating correctly, stretching often, and tapering their training load. This is not the time to improve or add strokes or skills; instead, players need to maximize what they can accomplish with the skills they already possess. Mental training skills and the competitive skills used in match play should be emphasized to help players cope with the excitement and pressure of important matches.

 As you move through the year, different aspects of physical training should receive emphasis to allow players to peak physically during the weeks of championship play.

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