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A 16-Minute Instructional Guide for 10-13-Year-Old Performance Tennis Players to Accurately Hammer Their Serves

Updated on July 22, 2015

Double UP and OUT!

Here is a split-frame snapshot of me serving a semi-professional tennis serve in 2012, at the age of 41.
Here is a split-frame snapshot of me serving a semi-professional tennis serve in 2012, at the age of 41. | Source

Introduction

Greetings, youth tennis players who have potential and talent! My name is John Royce Holtz. I teach tennis for City of Sausalito Department of Park and Recreation (415) 289-4140, just north of San Francisco. I played #1 Varsity Singles for San Francisco All-City Champions, Lowell High School. I represented the United States in international competition in Hong Kong and China as a high school baller. I have won 5.5 “A” level tennis tournaments and played amongst the Top-5 Varsity singles players at University of San Francisco. Let’s serve ‘em up-- and quite quickly, at that!

The following is my 16 minute, instructional guideline for 10-13-Year-Old Performance Tennis Players to develop their serves into formidable weapons that may inflict damage upon their opponents. The serve is “arms down” the most important shot in tennis because it is the only shot that is entirely within our own control, regardless of the opponent’s return of serve or subsequent follow up/s. If your opponent cannot break your serve, you cannot lose. Therefore, the serve deserves the most attention from a tennis teaching professional when he or she is crafting a student’s well-rounded tennis game.

The procedural framework from which I insert my own, substantive technique and drills has been provided by United States Professional Tennis Registry, of which I am a certified, High Performance Tennis Instructor for 10-16 year-olds. My substantive, instructional guideline is comprised of various methods I have incorporated over 20 years of learning a bonafide, semi-professional tennis serve. (I sometimes can’t believe that it took me so long to get a smooth, rhythmic, and reliable service motion down, so please have some initial patience while I help you cut to the chase.)

Warm Up: Athletic Skills Linked to Service Session Objectives

1) Warm Up: Athletic skills linked to Service session objectives

15% of Time= 3 minutes

a) 1 minute 15 seconds

One player stands near baseline. One player stands facing baseline player at service line. Both players stand at far advantage court near alley and side step towards deuce court alley while tossing the tennis ball overhand, back and forth to one another (over head) as they side shuffle. Then, from the deuce alley court, players side step towards advantage alley court, tossing ball overhead, back and forth to one another as they shuffle. The purpose of this drill is to throw overhand, simulating the service motion, to deuce and advantage side courts.



b) 1 minute 15 seconds

Both players stand at either deuce or advantage side on baseline. For a right-hander, they cock racquet arm by raising it straight back and elbow up from service ready position (shortened back swing). SIMULTANEOUSLY, players use their left arms to simulate tossing the ball at 1 o’clock, TWO feet into the court. Players extend left arm to eye level for a prolonged time (with inertia) and softly release, so that momentum of ball travels another foot or so higher. So, it is kind of a "double up" at the same time motion.

Immediately after the "double up" motion is an "OUT" motion for the right hander, with left arm striking ball at apex before it has time to bounce any lower. Hence: "Double up,out!" There is no hesitation nor time elapse between the “double up” and the “out,” so that the ball does not have the opportunity to drop. Another option for more advanced players is to flex knees during the double up portion and spring up during the out segment. An actual ball is NOT used for this drill. Practice “double up” and “out” repeatedly until time is up, while leaping 10 or so times vertically across the court.


c) 30 seconds

Stand near back catch tarp and toss ball with left arm (for right handers) at one o’clock against fence. Release ball with left hand at eye level and let inertia enable ball to travel extra foot high. SIMULTANEOUSLY cock right arm and then IMMEDIATELY trap ball against fence at apex. Repeat a few times.



Game Situation-- Coach Observes and Analyzes Performance of Specific Service Skills

10% of time= 2 minutes

Observe and analyze player serving out wide, down T, and into body. Have players serve both flat and slice serves to all three locations. Make mental notes of areas for youth’s improvement.

(No American Twist serve taught at this time. I used to have a rather wicked American Twist, second serve leaper (a “striker-outer” that kicked up and out wide, halfway up the alley line towards the next court over. I used to follow any conceivable returns up to the net for an easy volley. But until my back heals and until the youths reach 13, I’ll refrain from teaching that tourking motion!)








Skill Development: Teach and Improve the Service Skill

35% of time= 5 minutes 20 seconds

a) 1 minute

The student should really try to get the proper ball toss for the serve dialed because 80% of the tennis serve is in the consistent toss-- in the same place, time after time again. Have student place tennis racquet on the baseline at 1 o’clock. Have student stand at 12 o’clock, right behind the baseline. Have right-handed student toss ball at 1 o’clock AND TWO feet in front of the baseline. Left-handed student should toss the ball at 11 o’clock AND TWO feet in front of the baseline. Ball should land on the center strings of the racquet 5 out of 8 times before progressing to b).

b) 30 seconds

Have right-handed student engage in “Double UpOUT” motion while tossing the ball at 1 o’clock and two feet in front of the baseline, WITHOUT hitting ball and letting ball drop on strings. In other words, complete service motion while purposely striking out (NOT hitting) ball in the air.


3 minutes 30 seconds

Have student practice flat and slice serves, only ONE on deuce court before one on advantage court, another single serve on deuce court, and so forth. This gives the student the incentive to get the ball in, with only a single opportunity before changing sides.

Areas to scout: 1) Make sure student’s “Double Up” motion is in sync--the non-dominant hand’s fully extended and lingering toss, 1 o’clock AND TWO feet into the court for the right-hander WITH the abrogated cocking of the elbow of the racquet arm (and possible knee flex).

Make sure the “OUT” striking motion occurs as soon as the “Double Up” effectuates, before any hesitation that will enable the ball to drop.

It may be necessary to serve 20-40 tennis balls total daily over several weeks with accompanying instruction, initially at half speed and then three quarters speed, before full out “popping” them. Even an experienced player must develop a consistent rhythm that once again (or for the first time), makes the service motion second nature.

For right hander, place left foot parallel to the baseline and right foot in back of and to the right of left foot, a foot or so apart. For left-hander, place right foot parallel to the baseline and left foot in back of and to the right of right foot, a foot or so apart.

Hold service grip in between a continental “hammer” grip (when you shake hands with the racquet) and an eastern backhand (for a right-hander, to the left of the continental "hammer" grip).

Have a “loosey goosey” service motion that firms up only upon contact with ball at apex.

After contact with ball at apex, follow through downwards with racquet hand, decelerating across body towards left hip (for right-hander).

Two Equal Chances for Triumph

When in shape, I use the second service as an opportunity to hit another first serve. Using this “go for broke” methodology and compact service technique, when in practice I usually can plaster four service winners/or aces and usually double fault a single time a game, as a byproduct of my fierce, on-court aggression. Thus, I view the second serve not as a nerve-wracking hindrance that might result in another misfire, but as a coveted, additional opportunity for a power strike with no return zip code from the opponent!


Competitive Development: Develop Service Motion in progressively more open drills and games. Add scoring.

30% of time= 4 minutes

I will tell students to hit serves out wide, into body, and down T on Deuce and Advantage sides--flat and with slice. For slice serve, draw the curtains down form right apex diagonally down to left hip, spinning side and chiseling bottom of ball.

Students have a single serve opportunity initially to get ball into play with a fair amount of pace before hitting another serve from the other side of the baseline.

I will return ball cross court, deep. Students must recover in a timely manner to hit third ball in play.

I will continue making aforementioned comments how students may improve their service skills, after every point.

Eventually, I may return serve down line or bisect court with angle returns to challenge student more.

We will add scoring so that student will serve at least one game.


Cool Down: Static Stretching. Evaluate learning and progress of serve.

Cool Down: static stretching. Evaluate learning and progress of Serve.

10% of time= 1 minute 30 seconds


Stretch calves
Touch ground with knees straight.
Lie on ground and stretch out arms and legs.
Stretch back placing left leg over right knee and left elbow over right knee (Then reverse.)

All the while of stretching, I will ask open-ended questions designed to elicit positive gems of understanding regarding what student gleaned during session.

I will congratulate student on what he/she did well during practice and make specific, positive suggestions for how he or she might improve.


Total time= under 16 minutes


Summary

Okay, strokers! So what did we learn the most about the tennis serve today? 1) The ball toss (for a right-hander) should be at 1 o’clock and TWO feet into the court plus soft release at eye level. The ball toss for a left-hander should be at 11 o’clock and TWO feet into the court plus soft release at eye level. 2) The Up andOut motion enables the server to hit the ball at its apex, as soon as the racquet arm is cocked in unison with the ball toss, before the ball has a chance to drop. 3) We learned various drills and techniques to effectuate the above, two main components of the serve.

Have Patience

Please take heart: Perfecting the expert service skill is probably going to take a lot of time, practice, and plenty of goofs before one becomes a robotic ace generator. Therefore, don’t get discouraged if you don’t find immediate results. It took me twenty years to develop a championship tennis serve, and I still must practice hitting buckets of balls for a week or so to get my rhythm back when I become out of practice. With the assistance of a good tennis teaching professional, this 16-minute version of service techniques and drills will be a great beginning to have you plastering quality tennis serves in comparably no time. Have fun out there pummeling some aces (unreachable blasts) and whupping up on your opponent with the above, helpful hints!

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