Inside a Top4Tennis School Session

Inside a Top4Tennis School Session

At Top4Tennis we specialise in school tennis sessions. That means going into schools and offering high-quality tennis coaching to kids in the mornings or afternoons. 

At the moment we run Top4Tennis school sessions at Hinchley Wood Primary School, Auriol Junior School, Mead Infant School, Christ Church Junior School, Christ Church Infant School and Hollymount Primary School. And we're always looking to expand. 

There are plenty of tennis coaches out there and different ways of going about a school coaching lesson. The difference between us and any other tennis company is the quality: We pay attention to really improving every child that attends the club. Our motto is that if children improve their tennis, they have more fun. That’s why we prioritise skills and technique, not just match play.  

This is how a typical term of tennis sessions will play out...

Mastering the basics

During the first few weeks, we usually concentrate on basic technique, forehands and backhands and taking the racket back low with a straight arm. Little things, like making sure the child swings and finishes with the racket over the shoulder, make all the difference in the long run.

These introductory sessions are when we try and iron out basic technique and flaws that would otherwise stick with a tennis player for life. These include important foundational skills like swinging with a straight arm and getting in the ready position before and after each shot.

Learning to volley and smash

Two of the most attacking shots in tennis are the volley and the smash. In our school sessions we look closely at these. The main technique is all about creating a ‘V’ between our shoulder, the elbow and the racket for the volley on both forehand and backhand side.

We should be able to see the back of the racket. If we can’t then it becomes a swing and we have no control over the ball and are likely to miss the ball. As we make contact with the ball we step forwards with the opposite foot and punch, keeping the wrist stiff. The foot you step forward on depends on the shot: left foot for the forehand volley and right foot for the backhand volley (if you are right-handed).

Sometimes use the terminology high five the ball with the racket to help the child understand what they must do on the volley, but we must be careful they don’t sacrifice their technique where the shrink their elbow to create and L shape as if they are waving hello. Again we start the child in the ready position before and after each volley.

On the smash it’s more simple. We start with the racket behind the head and the left hand above the head pointing to the ball, looking up the arm and looking at the ladybird on the side of your finger. To make contact with the ball we reach up to it the ball without letting it ball drop. On contact we then snap the wrist.

After the technique side is completed, we play fun games at the end of each session. The idea here, with these different drills, is to give each child an opportunity to introduce the skills that have been learned.

Ball dynamics

Once the children start to improve their technique we are ready to think more deeply about the dynamics of the ball. Most children naturally run to the bounce of the ball. So we start off with a simple game. Without the racket, the child must let the ball bounce and then drop below the waste before they catch it. This helps kids move behind the ball while letting the ball fall low enough to create a good shot.

The number one rule is to not let the ball behind you but letting the ball fall in front of you. Next we try the exact same but with a racket. The next phase is to follow the same steps during a rally. The bouncing and dropping rule really helps the children ensure they have time before they hit the ball, which allows them to control their shots and complete a rally.

The serve

The next step is learning to serve. We first start by focussing on the main foot. Whether left or right footed, this foot should be pointing towards the net post. The other foot is shoulder width apart behind but square on.

That’s when the serve starts. With the racket behind the head like a smash, we practice tossing the ball above the head with the weaker hand. We like to pretend that there’s a clock above our head and that the toss needs to go up at 1 o’clock. We then reach up to hit the ball.

It’s a very basic technique, but a fundamental part of the game.

At the end of each session we try to put everything together. The kids play small matches, hone their new skills and really enjoy the game of tennis.

Want to get involved?

If you’re interested in getting your children involved in tennis sessions at any of the following schools: Hinchley Wood Primary School, Auriol Junior School, Mead Infant School, Christ Church Junior School, Christ Church Infant School and Hollymount Primary School - just get in touch today and we'll get the ball rolling. 

Or maybe you've got kids at a primary or secondary school that would be interested in having regular coaching sessions? We're always on the look out for new opportunities. 

Sleeping For Success

Sleeping For Success

Sleep for the Win

There’s a famous principle in boxing that goes like this: “train hard, fight easy.” And it’s a mantra that can easily be related to other sports, too. Between putting in those gruelling hours in training and stepping out onto the tennis court, there's a window of time where nothing else can be done. Or can it? Today we're talking about the importance of sleep.

The one and only Roger Federer prioritises not just training well, but sleeping well too. Inspired by this, today we're getting serious about snoozing- particularly that final night’s rest before a big match. What follows are 4 tips we can all use to get the best night's sleep possible. With them you can be at your best on court the following day.

Tip 1: Think in sleep cycles, not in hours

Sure, it’s important to get a decent number of hours sleep. But it’s equally important that you are mindful of your body’s natural sleeping rhythms. One sleep cycle lasts 90 minutes, and to get an optimal 5 cycles of sleep in the night, you need to sleep for 7.5 hours, safely waking up at the end of the fifth cycle.

Therefore, if you want to wake up at 06.30 and get 7.5 hours of solid sleep, you should be falling asleep (not going to bed) at 23.00. Taking a scientific approach to the hours and cycles you can fit in will encourage you to wake up naturally and feeling fresh. Waking up before or after that time will mean interrupting a sleep cycle, which makes waking up more exhausting than it needs to be.

Tip 2: Get lots of natural light during the day

Getting exposure to sunlight is another way to keep your body in rhythm. Reminding your mind that it's daytime will make it easier for you to switch off later in preparation for sleep. Sunlight also increases the production of serotonin, which will help you relax. There are plenty of ways to spend some of your day outdoors without physically exerting yourself or risking injury. Going for a walk is one fantastic way to relax, shake off that nervous energy and get plenty of exposure to fresh air and sunlight.

Tip 3: Don’t drink too much, do drink the right stuff

This one should be obvious. If you want to have a solid, uninterrupted 7.5 or 9 hours of sleep, the last thing you need is to be getting up to use the toilet.

During the day, aim to stay well hydrated. That means not packing in loads of liquid right before you head to bed.

In terms of what you drink, caffeine and stimulants are okay in moderation during the morning, but best avoided after midday. The half-life of caffeine is about 5 and half hours. So to be safe, avoid coffee or caffeinated products after around 12-1 o’clock.

Use the same caution with sugary drinks. A great alternative in the evening is warm milk or a herbal tea - anything like this can help you get sleepy before bed without giving you a buzz for the rest of the night.

Tip 4: Create a relaxing bedtime ritual

There's a reason why scientists think we have a sleep epidemic going around. The world is now more full of distractions and things to do than ever before, and unfortunately, they aren't conducive to a good night's sleep. Your best bet is to create a relaxing bedtime routine and stick to it. Especially if you want to perform on court the next day. 

Around 90 minutes before going to bed, begin to wind down. You should have already eaten your last meal and drunk your last proper drink by then. Now is the time to put away your devices and give your mind a rest.

Blue light waves from electronics have been shown to suppress the production of melatonin in your brain and upset your body’s circadian rhythm. If you cannot avoid looking at a screen (which is silly, everyone can), make sure you switch it onto night-time mode.

You might also want to have a warm bath or find other ways of signalling to your body and your mind that it’s time for bed. Keeping your bedroom peaceful, uncluttered and relaxing is an easy way to create calm so that sleep arrives naturally. So light those candles and hit play on your Michael Buble album!

Final thoughts

On the eve of a big game or tennis tournament, don’t be fooled into thinking there is nothing more you can do to prepare in the last 24 hours. Instead, use the time you have left to stay relaxed and prepare for a good night’s sleep. If you follow the tips above, you’ll give yourself the best opportunity to compete at your best level on the tennis court. 

Already a master of sleep? Maybe you just need some tennis training instead? Have a look through the Top4Tennis services to see if there's a class or service that's right for you. 

4 Grand Slam Exercises to Turbo Charge Your Tennis

4 Grand Slam Exercises to Turbo Charge Your Tennis

We all know that tennis is a game of finesse, technique and skill. Hitting a ball with pinpoint accuracy while gracefully moving around the court requires athleticism, flexibility and coordination. There are however, other attributes of the modern game that players must develop if they want to reach the next level. And these are attributes that can be worked on in the weight room as well as on the court. 

What are these attributes? Strength and Power

Strength is the foundation of all physical sports. Power is a product of strength.

Here are 4 exercises that will have you striking fear into whoever is across the net.

The Deadlift

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The deadlift is the ultimate test of strength. And it’s pretty simple. All you have to do is pick something heavy off the floor. The brilliant thing about deadlifts is that you can’t do a half-rep or cheat. You can either lift it or you can't. In terms of athletic application, the deadlift is a total body movement that strengthens the glutes, hamstrings quads and back muscles. The deadlift also develops motor control and core stability, making it an ideal exercise for all athletes. 

This is how you do it:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. The bar should be over the middle of your foot. 

  2. Hinge forward at the hips as far as you can, you should feel the tension in your hamstrings and glutes.

  3. Squat down towards the bar, you should feel some tension in your quads now.

  4. Grip the bar with your arms touching the outside of your quads and a double overhand grip. 

  5. At this point, your hips should be lower than your shoulders and your back should be flat. Your eyes should be facing down. 

  6. Take a breath into your stomach and squeeze your core.

  7. Begin the pull by pressing your feet into the floor, imagine you are trying to push the floor away from you.

  8. When the bar gets to your knees, think about driving your hips towards the wall in front of you.

  9. Stand up straight and lock the rep out. Do not hyper extend or shrug the weight! 

  10. Return the weight to the floor in a controlled manner and repeat. 

Bench Press

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You might think that the bench press is all about the chest, but when it’s performed properly it can cover the upper body. Your lower body also plays a significant supporting role. The muscle groups that are hit the hardest are your chest, shoulders and triceps. But your lower body has to be set up in such a way that it provides you with a solid base to push off from. 

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Lie back on the bench and take a grip just wider than shoulder width apart. 

  2. Tuck your feet as close to you as possible and squeeze your glutes.

  3. Arch your back so that only your upper back is in contact with the bench, your next point of contact should be your glutes. This position has to be maintained throughout the set.

  4. Un-rack the bar and allow it to travel out until it's over the middle of your chest. 

  5. With the bar in your hands imagine you are trying to bend the bar in half, this should tuck your elbows in at an angle. You should also squeeze your upper back tightly.

  6. Take a deep breath into your belly and lower the weight down to the bottom of your pecs, the bar should finish on your sternum and it must touch it! No half reps allowed! 

  7. When you begin to press, drive your feet into the ground and press the bar back up and towards your face so the bar moves in an arc.

  8. Before you perform another rep quickly assess your arch and glute activation before going again. 

Medicine Ball Throw

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This exercise is simple but extremely effective. The key to the Medicine Ball Throw is ensuring your hip drop is short and explosive. Do not think about dropping your hips in the same way as you would when squatting. 

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Hold a medicine ball at chest height with your grip on the side of the ball so your elbows are pointing out to the side

  2. Drop your hips slightly and then, in one explosive motion, snap your hips forward and throw the ball as far as you can. Fun!

Wood Choppers

Rotational power is a key part of athletic performance in tennis. Your ability to produce rotational force plays a key role in how much power you can generate in your shots. In order to generate rotational power, you must be able to keep your spine neutral whilst performing a movement. Woodchoppers are just the ticket when it comes to doing exactly that.

Here’s how they work:

  1. Attach the rope handle to a cable or band and set it to lower chest height

  2. Grab the handle with both hands, walk away from where it is attached until you feel tension in the cable/band and extend your arms out in front of you until your elbows are just shy of locking out

  3. Ensure your body is facing forward before moving on to the next step

  4. Create tension in your core, imagine someone is going to punch you in the stomach and rotate your torso away from the cable/band attachment

  5. As you rotate your arms should naturally follow and should always be in line with your lower chest