On Becoming a Court Warrior
“We are going to have a mini competition today,” I announced.
My class of five 6-year olds met my plans with various states of glee.
When we talk about overachievers and underachievers, Joshua slots into the underachievers. He is more likely to say “I can’t”; is very aware if he can’t perform a skill; and is always seeking reinforcement from his Mum or his coach.
“I don’t like competition,” he said.
I sighed inwardly and prepared to deliver the best darn red ball starter competition I could. Would I be able to bring Josh around? Get a smile on his face and take a step towards enjoying the battle? Becoming a Court Warrior?
We started with a skill we had been working on all term. Catching in an up turned cone. The players would throw the ball over the net to their partners to catch. Each time they took a catch they scored a point. Before we started playing we rolled a big dice, whatever number was rolled we had to achieve that many points. Every time we achieved that number of points we earned a peg for our team.
Our next skill was to introduce a racquet. The player threw the ball to their partner who hit back to them and they score a point if they could catch the return. We kept the dice and the pegs from previous game as each player enjoyed earning pegs for the team and the element of luck with the dice.
Our third activity was to throw overarm at different coloured and sized hoops hanging on the fence. The players called out the colour they were aiming for and scored different points depending on how difficult the throw was. This created variability within the skill and challenged the players to take risks on the more difficult but higher rewarding targets.
Finally we had a rally challenge. The players rolled the dice and had to achieve that number of shots in a rally to earn a peg. They started the rally with an overarm throw and I recruited some older players waiting for the next lesson to be my assistant coaches and rally with my red ball team.
The key features of all my activities in the mini red ball competition included:-
- Everything was done as a team and all points and pegs earned were for the team
- The dice created an element of luck and fun
- All activities were played in a co-operative style
- All the challenges involved familiar skills we had practiced during the coaching block.
Josh celebrated his victories, high 5’ed his partners, fist pumped the coach and moved on quickly when he failed at a task.
At the end of the lesson I asked “What did you enjoy most about the mini competition?”
“This catch…or that hit,” the boys sung proudly.
“The competition,” said Josh. Job done. Happy kid, happy coach!
If you want some more great formats to build competition into your program for red, orange and green players check out “When can I play Again?” This manual is a must have resource for any coach who values the importance of developing a Court Warrior.
Rufus Keown is a member of the e9 Professional Development Team
He is Director of the Victorian Tennis Academy, in Melbourne Australia and a Course Facilitator for Tennis Australia.