One of the great things about tennis is that it encourages you to develop so many different skills.
Whether it’s cardio, coordination, mental toughness, life skills, or just hitting a ball over the net, there are so many things to learn on a tennis court.
So, what are some simple ways we can help kids learn these skills whilst still having great fun on the court?
We’ve broken down some of our favorite games into 3 categories, physical, mental, and tactical/technical, so you’ll have plenty of ideas next time you’re out on court.
Games to Improve Fitness
Getting kids to run around and get some healthy exercise is one of the main benefits of tennis and there are lots of games that can help with this.
The nice thing about a sport like tennis is there are lots of ways you can make exercise not seem like exercise, so be creative and implement some of these games.
Crab Football (Soccer)
This is a bit of a classic.
Each player gets into the crab position, on their hands and feet with their back facing towards the floor.
Everybody must move using the crab position, keeping their bodies off the floor.
Introduce a tennis ball to use as a football, and have the kids pass the ball between them.
This not only helps build strength but also helps with coordination as well, as they will have to move body parts in unusual ways to get the best results.
Keep the reps limited to 30-60 seconds, allow some time for rest and then go again.
This is great strengthening for the muscles around the trunk, which are vital to tennis.
If you want to kick it up a notch, then you can lengthen the reps, and introduce a push up each time a child kicks the ball.
For the push-up, you’ve just got to flip over, complete the push-up, and flip back before the next kick.
This is a fun exercise where kids use two tennis rackets as chopsticks to boost coordination and racket skills.
Each child needs two rackets, one in each hand, and the idea is to catch the ball between the two rackets before throwing it back to their partner with the “chopsticks.”
This challenges hand-eye coordination and helps children to get a good feeling for how the ball interacts with the racket.
The two players stand about 3m apart, and you can make it competitive by seeing how many catches each team can make in a minute.
If you want to take it a bit further, you can turn it into a little tennis match, where each dropped ball counts as a point to the other player.
The better the players get at this, the more they can simulate actual tennis shots by turning the body as they would with a real tennis shot.
It’s a very simple kids tennis game, but Chopsticks really helps build racket and body control that’s important moving forward in tennis.
Push Up Tennis
Another kid’s tennis game that’s great for fitness is Push Up Tennis.
Both players get into a pushup position, facing each other. The idea of the game is to throw the ball back and forth between each other whilst maintaining the pushup position.
If you want to make it more competitive, then you can create a little square in between the two players and turn it into a game of tennis.
This is really helpful for challenging kids to maintain difficult body positions, something that they have to do in tennis.
The longer you let the exercise run, the more challenging it will be, and you can make it more difficult by only allowing three body parts to touch the floor at any given moment.
Games to Improve Mentality
If there’s one thing we tend to say more than anything else, then it’s “tennis is such a mental game.”
That’s the reason so many of us love it, but it’s also one of the most difficult things to master.
However, it’s good to be able to get kids to think about the mental side of the game as early as possible, and there are lots of different ways of doing this.
This is one that we used to love playing when we were younger, and it’s a great way to get young players to think about the way the scoring system works.
Players play points against each other with a drop feed in one half of the court (deuce/ad) up to 6.
Rather than remembering what the score is, each player must remember which point they won. So if one player won points 1,3,4, and 5, then the other player won points 2 and 6.
At the end, you roll the dice, and whoever won the corresponding point to the number on the dice wins.
The thing we love about this game is that it teaches kids that tennis is never over.
You might have lost the first five points, but that last point is still vitally important.
If you want to make it more difficult, then you can make it best of three sets. At the end of the three sets of tennis, you roll the dice for each set to decide the winner.
For all the creativity and ingenuity that tennis affords, the person who keeps the ball in the court the longest wins the point.
It’s one of the fundamentals of the game, but it’s one that a lot of us tend to ignore.
Survivor man takes this idea and makes it into a mini-game that helps recreate the pressure of match play tennis.
All players play on a half-court (deuce or ad) and work cooperatively with their partner to keep the rally going.
When a team misses, they have to shout “out”, and the last team standing are the winners.
As players hear other teams shouting out, it’s natural that they start to feel more pressure and get a little bit tight because they know they are close to winning.
What’s important is that they can play through this pressure and continue to play high-quality strokes.
Once each round finishes, players should rotate clockwise so they play with a new partner, keeping score of how many games they have won.
You can make this more difficult by making players alternate between forehands and backhands.
Bounce and Hit
One of the most important things in tennis is being able to focus on the ball.
This tennis game for kids really helps them focus in on what’s happening not only when they hit the ball, but also when their opponents hit the ball.
Players play cooperatively in the service boxes, trying to build the rally.
When the ball bounces on their opponent’s side of the court, each player should shout “bounce,” and when their opponent hits the ball, they should shout “hit.”
This helps players to concentrate on the ball at all times, rather than just when they’re hitting the it.
You can do this for a minute, extending the amount of time to make it more challenging.
You can also take it back to the baseline and add other elements such as the ball having to clear the service line.
Games to Improve Tactical/ Technical Aspects
The last aspect we’ve included in our simple tennis games for kids is tactical/technical.
You’ve got to practice the things you’re going to be doing on the match court at some point, and these games are the perfect way to do that.
It’s hard not to love dingles – it’s got everything you could want.
4 players line up at the back of the court, and they play cross court singles points simultaneously.
Once one point ends, the other ball becomes live for everyone and a doubles point is played out.
In order to win a point, a pair must win both individual points, if the points are split, then nobody gets a point.
This game is a fun way of practicing consistency from the back of the court, whilst also allowing for the creativity that doubles brings.
It takes a lot of awareness to be able to slip effortlessly into someone else’s point, and players need to learn to react to whatever might be thrown at them.
Dingles is a game most kids love, so it’s a good way to finish off a session in a fun way that still promotes learning.
Another fun game that helps kids with their technique and tactics is Twister.
Players rally from the back of the court while the coach calls out commands about how they should hit the ball.
Commands will be like the game Twister, so “left foot only,” “right foot only,” “both feet in the air,” “both feet on the floor.”
This will force the players to keep their technique even in positions they may not be used to and also to think tactically about the best way to get the ball in the court.
There are different ways you can make this more difficult, by making sure players are hitting both backhands and forehands and topspin and slice.
If you want to make it seriously challenging, then see if the players can switch hands after each shot!
Round the World
We thought we would finish with another classic kids tennis game – round the world.
It’s a pretty simple game where all the kids line up at the baseline, half on either side of the net.
The coach feeds the ball in and the players play out the rally, but after each shot, they have to run to the other end.
Once it gets down to four players then you can play it so each team alternates shots.
This game is a bit of fun, but it still helps kids to develop their tactics and technique.
Running round the net puts a time constraint on them and they’ve got to figure out how to get their technique sorted pretty quickly.
Kids tennis needs to be fun, and there are lots of ways you can help them improve their fitness, mentality, and technique while keeping things light hearted.
There are all kinds of tennis games for kids out there, and these are just a small sample, but the great thing is there are so many ways you can be creative with your drills.
Article by: Will