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How to Teach Beginning Tennis

By Michele M. Howard

Whether you're teaching a beginner adult or a young child, your goal as a tennis instructor is provide your student with the skills and knowledge to play the game. Keep your instruction simple and more important, make it fun. Teaching beginners is not difficult if you use age-appropriate equipment and techniques, and start with the basics. With good instruction and a little practice, your student will be able to apply his newly learned skills to a real game.

Employ the Right Equipment

Depending on the student's height, teach children with a 19-, 21-, 23- or 25-inch racket. Set up a shorter court with smaller nets and teach with low-compression balls, which bounce lower, to make learning easier. Adult rackets, which are typically 27 inches long, come in different grip sizes. Check to see that your students are using the correct size, one appropriate to their hand. Switch to regular, pressurized balls when teaching adults.

Review the Grips

Teach the basic grips for the forehand, backhand and serve. The eastern forehand grip works well to teach the forehand. This places the palm of the hand directly behind the racket's handle for more stability. For young players who don't have the strength to hit a one-handed backhand, teach a two-handed version with the continental grip for the dominant hand and the eastern forehand grip for the non-dominant hand. For one-handed backhands, have your student use the eastern backhand grip. Teach the serve with the continental grip.

Teach Basic Ground Strokes

Depending on the stroke, demonstrate how to start in the ready position, turn, step diagonally with the correct foot and where the point of contact should be. Stress an early take back, a low-to-high racket swing and a follow through over the opposite shoulder. Without hitting a ball, have your student take several practice swings. Stand to the side, drop balls and have your student try to hit forehands and backhands over the net. After your student gets the feel for this, stand about 10 feet in front and toss balls a few feet to either side to get him to move to the ball.

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Teaching the Serve

With your student standing just behind the service line, diagonally opposite one of the service boxes, have him turn slightly to the right and point his lead foot toward the right net post -- just the opposite for a left-handed player. With a clock face as a reference, have the player toss the ball toward 1 o'clock, or 11 o'clock for a lefty, and about 1 foot toward the net. The toss needs to be high enough so that when contact is made, his arm is fully extended. Have the student start in the "back scratch" position, which is with the fist near the ear and the racket behind his back, on edge and pointing down. Instruct him to toss the ball, reach up with his racket and hit the ball into the service box. Stress a straight arm at contact and following through across his body. Gradually move the student back to the baseline and introduce the full service motion.

Review How to Score

Explain how you lose a point if you fail to get the serve in after two attempts. During a rally, if you hit a ball and it lands outside the boundaries, you lose the point. If any part of the ball lands on any part of the line, it is good. Zero points is referred to as "love" and if you win one point, you have a score of "15." You have a score of "30" after two points, "40" after three and if you win a fourth, you win the game. Explain that you must have a two-point lead to win the game. In regular scoring, when the score is "deuce," which is when each player has a score of "40," play continues until one player has a two-point lead. Six games wins a set and two-out-of-three sets wins the match.

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