COACHING B1 TENNIS PLAYERS
Summary • As coaches we can give our tennis knowledge to others. • With B1 coaching we need to listen and learn. • The best coaches of B1 tennis will work together with their players and produce joint ideas. If something doesn’t work don’t be discouraged – it may be that it just needs tweaking slightly to be a great idea. However it may also be that it doesn’t work in this environment. Never be afraid to admit that you were wrong, especially in a environment where you are not an expert. We as coaches may be the tennis experts but we can learn so much from the players about their knowledge and expertise in a world of Visual Impairment.
Ratio of coach/volunteer to player • B1 coaching is very labour intensive. • To provide quality coaching always provide 1 to 1 coaching where possible • A ratio of no more than 1 to 2 is recommended in terms of both safety and quality. • If you have many B1 players attending look for more volunteers. Try local schools for Tennis Leaders, Universities and Local Tennis Clubs. Many people are yet to hear about VI Tennis and are keen to get involved.
B1 RULES • Played on mini red court – 11 metres by 5.5 metres • Net Height – 80 cm • Players get 3 bounces • Players must wear BBS approved shades • Server Shouts ‘Ready’ • Returner ‘Yes’ • Server must shout ‘Play’ before they hit the ball.
B1 RULES (Cont) • NEVER set up a B1 court across a full tennis court. The first bounce must land inside the court dimension but bounces two and three can take a player another 2-3 metres back from the baseline. (Please always remember this when setting up your court) • B1 players must always be listened to. We, together with partially sighted players and coaches, can never fully appreciate the difficulties in not being able to see anything. Players need to feel safe in their environment and if they are afraid to run backwards to retrieve a shot because there is a wall behind then we are not giving them the respect that they deserve.
GUIDING THE PLAYERS AROUND THE ENVIRONMENT All new B1 players should be guided around their environment to get used to the playing area and any area leading up to it. Ask players if they prefer to place their hands on shoulder or elbow to be guided. Explain the course you are taking: “We are moving left around an object” “Two steps down” “Three Steps Up” “Door opens in/outwards with hinge to right/left”
GUIDING AROUND THE COURT • Guide the player to the centre of the net. • Encourage them to move left and right to feel the net posts • Guide along the tactile lines to ensure familiarity with the court size • Use a tactile model of a tennis court to help explain the layout of the court and let the player ‘feel’ where they are on court using the model as they move around the actual court.
TRACKING THE BALL 1: Server 2: Bounce 1 3: Bounce 2 4: Bounce 3 Player movement 5: Player
Tracking (Cont) The previous diagram shows a simple method that we have used on players to help them to ‘track’ without using a ball. Server (1) and Player (5) stand opposite each other and we use people (2,3 and 4) to simulate the bounce of the ball. We ensure that 2,3 and 4 stand to form a line away from 1 and they each shout their number numerically. 5 must then sidestep in the correct direction and try to stand in the correct position to play the shot (create a straight line) and shout 5. This encourages both tracking and sideways movement with better balance.
Tracking – Stage 2 • Introduce tracking of the ball • Roll the ball towards the player • Player sidesteps to get behind the ball and catches it • Gradually increase the distance the player must move to the side Note: Remember ‘Ready’, ‘Yes’, ‘Play’ and ensure the player moves in a sidestep fashion for improved balance.
Tracking – Stage 3 • Throw the ball to the player including the 3 bounces • With this stage watch the height of the players hands to ascertain whether they are understanding the height of the bounce. • If the player is correctly ‘predicting’ the height of the ball the next stage may not be necessary. • Ensure that when feeding the ball has a good, consistent bounce rather than one or two bounces followed by the ball rolling.
Understanding the Bounce • Using ‘Ready’ ‘Yes’ ‘Play’ stand in front of the player and drop the ball • The player must catch the ball after the third bounce • Progress to catching the ball after the second and first bounce. Explain to the player to listen carefully to the bounces. A longer period of time between bounces indicates that is higher and a shorter time shows that is a low bounce. Also a shorter period of time can show that the ball is moving faster towards the player.
Introducing the racket • Place the racket in the players hand by shaking hands and then replacing your hand with the racket • Demonstrate the swing of the shot by holding the head of the racket and guiding the player through the shot – verbally describing what is happening to help the understanding • Ask the player to use their non playing hand to feel the face of the racket to explain open and closed and demonstrate the best position for the racket face to be in as the shot progresses.
Hitting the Ball • Start by rolling the ball towards the player • ensure that it is just to the side to make it easy to connect and help the player grow in confidence. (All work at this stage is to the players forehand) • As connection improves feed the ball further to the side to encourage movement • Once the player gains confidence encourage them to turn sideways and play a ‘recognised’ tennis forehand.
Introduce the bounce to the forehand • Stand slightly forward and to the side of the player. Drop the ball and ask them to hit a forehand after the third bounce. • As confidence grows players will often automatically try to hit after the first or second bounce. Do not discourage this (especially if successful) but if the player keeps missing then suggest they go back to using more bounces to start with. • If you have enough volunteers you could then introduce the low to high swing with the volunteer standing to the front of the player and trying to catch the resulting shot. (Remember to vocalise at all times)
Receiving and returning a feed • Stand to the front of the player and feed the ball for them to return using low to high swing • Start by throwing the ball and progress to racket feed • Try to ensure that the ball reaches the player on the third bounce • Progress and regress as necessary • Set targets, goals to be improved upon week after week. • As the player improves feed from over the net and see how many returns cross the net.
Rallying • As the player becomes competent at hitting the ball over the net then introduce the concept of the rally. Coach serves and player returns to enable the coach to get the ball back for a rally of 3 and progress from there. This is a slow and often frustrating process for the player. Lots of encouragement and reassurance is required and move back to the basics of the shot as necessary to increase confidence in the player when/if frustration takes hold.
Backhands • Follow the same process as that used for forehands but ensure that the player changes to a backhand grip and turns their body sideways to free up the swing. • Encourage single handed backhands as the length of racket and softness of the sponge balls doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a double handed backhand. (This is guidance and if you find that a specific player does prefer a double handed backhand then please encourage this. Work with the individuality of every player to find out what works best for them!)
Serving • Start with an underarm serve. • Ask the player to stand sideways and hold the ball in front of them • Swing the racket through and hit the ball out of the hand and over the net • Encourage players to listen for their opponent so that they know where to hit the ball • If the ball is misdirected explain the angle of the face of the racket to the player • Imagine throwing your racket in the direction of the opponent with the follow through
Overarm Serve • Ask the player to throw the ball over the net • Progress to holding the ball over the head and ‘pushing’ the ball across the net. • Progress to hitting the ball out of the raised hand. • Progress to full service action. (Start with the ball toss as with any sighted player you will have taught) This will be different with each individual. Some will start with the racket raised, others will count or say a phrase in their head to get a rhythm to time the connection with the ball. Try this yourself to see what works and don’t be afraid to try something new. We have found that many players use a bent arm toss to ensure the ball stays closer to the body.
Returning • This is where many B1 players restrict themselves and lessen their chances of rallying • Due to the size of the court and the fact that three bounces are allowed it is pointless placing a B1 player on the baseline to receive. Often the ball will have passed the player after the first bounce • Depending on the surface (coaches can use their judgment here) the player should be placed a distance back from the baseline and assured that it is easier to move forwards than backwards for the ball • Encourage the player to use the three bounces
Advanced/Competitive Skills • Explain connection point for directing the ball down the line and cross court • Drop shots and slice • Always getting back to the centre of the court and using the ready position after shots. The above is for a player who has got a full understanding of the game and is becoming highly competitive. Verbal communication and using tactile demonstration enables the coach to teach the player at this stage in much the same way as you would a sighted or VI player.
oTHER TIPS • Try to ensure that the environment is kept as quiet as possible • Always tell the player what happened to the ball. If it was out let them know how far long or wide, if it hit the net how high up the net was it? • After guiding a player into position ALWAYS stand well away from the court and both players. Senses are heightened and a player is very aware if somebody is stood too close to them. • It is good for B1’s to practice matchplay together but drills work better with a volunteer/coach providing accurate feeding
Recap • Guiding – Ensure safe environment and instil confidence in your players • Tracking – This is instrumental in the players receptive skills and ability to progress. This stage is both rewarding and frustrating and beginners and improvers alike can find it to be a very long and hard process • Bounce of the ball – Help the player to understand the height as well as the direction of the ball • Racket – demonstrate the swing and encourage players to ‘feel’ the angle of the racket
Recap (Cont.) • Hitting the Ball – Use the progressions according to the individual. Don’t be afraid to regress to help increase and regain confidence • Serving – Start underarm and progress as the players confidence grows • Returning – Don’t stand too close
Useful Links and contacts • For the Tennis Foundation go to: http://www3.lta.org.uk/Tennis-Foundation/Tennis-for-Disabled-People/ • Join the group ‘VI TENNIS UK’ on Facebook • Also on Facebook are ‘North East Visually Impaired Tennis Club’, ‘ Disability Tennis Sheffield’, ‘Vision4growth’ and ‘York Disability Tennis Network’ • Any further questions about can be directed to email: firstname.lastname@example.org Mob: 07926 172939