Developing a Summer Camp
If you clicked on this article hoping to find a few new drills to use in your summer camps or clinics, you may be guilty of a typical error made by many coaches who work with groups over a period of time.
A successful program, unlike a successful lesson, demands a curriculum, not just a list of drills and a practice routine that’s applied every day.. Simply having different drills each day, with no day correlating to a previous practice or preparing players for an upcoming practice does not provide a meaningful session for your students and players.
If you are running junior programs this summer, it’s important to develop program plans, rather than just lesson plans.
Teaching vs. Coaching
First, it’s important to understand that you will have two types of juniors in your programs this summer: those who are still learning basic technical skills, such as forehands and backhands; and those who are looking to improve their playing skills. This means, you may be running two different types of programs.
If you are working with players who want to primarily improve their technical skills, you will be primarily a teacher. If you are running a five-day program for this type of player, you might focus on the forehand Monday, the backhand on Tuesday, the serve on Wednesday, etc.
It’s still important to tie the entire program together, however, because no one can learn a skill one day, then move on to a new skill the next, with any hope of remembering any skill you have taught. It’s important that your practices include a review of the previous practice’s skill each day. Each lesson should begin with a warm up, followed by reviewing the previous day’s lesson.
At the end of each session, drills should also incorporate all skills previously learned to enhance retention of skills. Showing how certain skills are similar, in terms of upper body rotation, use of the legs to generate force, etc., tie all of your sessions together. Starting your program with the serve on Monday, for example, will let you practice serve points each day, as student end each daily session by playing, adding new skills to their point play each day.
If you are primarily working with players who are looking to improve their competitiveness, you will be coaching more. It is even more important to have a curriculum that promises students a progression of skills and has a point.
In Planning Your Season: Part II, we discussed how to “work backwards” from the traditional style of American coaching, starting with determining playing styles, identifying which strategies and tactics go with that style, determining which shots and shot combinations are necessary to effect those types of strategies and tactics and only then pinpointing the mechanics necessary to make those shots.
Using dead-ball drills (feeding from a hopper) or line drills (student hits one ball, then runs to the end of the line), popular at most American academies, are actually two the most inappropriate and damaging drilling methods for competitive players. The hopper and dead-ball drills should be used for learning technical skills, and even then, sparingly.
Use live-ball, competitive drills that simulate match-play situations to identify player weaknesses, which will make it much easier for your players to buy into your suggestions and coaching.
The keys to any successful camp situation are to outline your upcoming program for campers on the first day, let players know how your camp will progress, and show them why this progression will benefit them. Players who know where they are and where they can go will want to do what it takes to get there. Having a plan lets players know why they are working on a specific drill each day and increases their enthusiasm for your practice sessions.
The following articles, combined with our skill-building drills, will help you run better camps and clinics this summer.