Free Practice Plans

In these sections you will have access to valuable coaching information. Through the Fence "Coachable Moments" are ideas and thoughts from coaches.  It's about what coaches say to their players during matches (through the fence) to help their players learn and improve (and maybe even to win a match).   The Forums also provide valuable coaching information.  You will learn thoughts and ideas from some of the top college and HS coaches in our Match Coaching Forum.  In our Mental Game Forum you will gain advice from some leading sports psychologists. Of course, every player is different and what works for one player may not work for another. But by recalling and sharing their actual "match stories" these top coaches and sports psychologists will help provide a valuable service.

You can also e-mail us questions that we will address to our coaching forums.

Here are some samples:

Through the Fence "Coachable Moment"

Focus on the Positive
I was talking with Coach Tom Lang from the DC area and he made a good point about a coachable moment. One of his players had just lost the first set badly and Coach Lang heads to the fence. The player starts telling him everything he is doing wrong but Tom stops him immediately and asks “what are you doing right”, “tell me something positive!”
This is a great coaching strategy for a couple of reasons. First, you do not want your player to become too analytical trying to figure out what is going wrong, at least not during a match. Second by focusing on something positive you can build on one or two things going into the next set. Players will also increase their energy level by being positive. Here are some of drills/games to use from to help emphasize staying positive and gaining some momentum;
• GaC612 Two in a Row
• GC125 Love the Battle
You want your player to leave the fence with something positive. You do not want him to focus on the negative and some quick questions to ask are “what is he doing well”, “what does he feel good about”. If he says nothing which might happen, ask him what he thinks he needs to do to make things more positive. You may want to have a specific example ready from watching the match. For example, you may notice that your player is in better shape and if he can extend the rally he will probably win a lot more points (and games). It will be more powerful if the player has suggested the idea but either way have him puts it in his own words as he tells you the idea before you leave the fence.

Match Coaching Forum

4. How do you help prevent a player from having a slow start in a match?

Slow starts are caused by three primary factors: a match up issue that was unknown going into the match, a lack of confidence and the inability of the player to find a 'rhythm' early in the match.

An unknown opponent with an unknown game style can cause difficulties for a player until they discover what patterns of play will hurt the opponent. However, if an individual on my team consistently starts slow then it isn't a match up issue but instead we are concerned that the player has a lack of confidence or difficulty in feeling the ball early on in the match. Both are issues that are not quickly solved.

A player's lack of confidence in their own game may stem from several possible sources. However, I know that my players who do feel a lack of confidence respond well to the following advice, "Make sure that you go out from the first point and play your game. Play the shots that you know are your best, and make your opponent feel your best patterns of play." Focusing more on what they can do well can help the player find a belief in their shots, if not themselves. Of course, if there are bigger confidence issues at play then consistent mental training over time is needed and the player would do well to see a sports psychologist on a regular basis.

If you believe your player has confidence in his game but has a difficult time placing shots early on in a match or finding a 'rhythm', then a different type of warm-up could help them improve their performance. A longer warm-up emphasizing consistency should help them find a 'groove' in practice. If this long warm up is followed by several actual games played (and played to WIN) then usually the player will be able to start the match a bit better.

Eric Steidlmayer
Head Coach - Men
University California San Diego
#1 Doubles Team 2004 (Division II)
#11 National Ranking 2004 (Division II)

"Two key areas that we try to emphasize to help prevent a slow start are preparation and a competitive mind-set. The preparation includes a proper meal ahead of time, a complete warm-up of all the shots and allowing enough time for equipment preparation and pre-match rituals.

Enough time before a match to focus on a game plan as well as playing a few games or tiebreakers in the warm-up will also benefit our players. By starting to compete in the warm-up they start the match with a competitive mind-set."

Bobby Bayliss
Two-time National Coach of the Year
Coached 17 All-Americans
12 consecutive NCAA Championship Berths
Notre Dame Men

"We are using a two step pre-match warm-up. The first step is to get the players to jog, stretch and hit about an hour before the match. The length of the hit varies from player to player but usually lasts about 15-20 minutes. The second step is a more organized and focused warm-up about 15 minutes before the match starts. During this time we want the players to play points and experience match conditions. We want to try to simulate match conditions so once a match starts they are ready to play."

Jamie Ashworth
Coached 19 All-Americans
#1 Ranked Team in the Country (six weeks in 2003)
Duke University Women's Coach

"In a match the emotions that players usually deal with are fear and anger. It's not uncommon for a player to be nervous before a match. Here are two things that can help players deal with it:

First is experience, players will learn how they handle nerves and what works best for them.  One of my players always took a shower just before a match.  Another story is from an interview with Bjorn Borg after he beat John McEnroe in that classic Wimbledon match. Four things that he mentioned were:

"I was very nervous inside"
"I thought I would lose"
"I had to silence that thought"
"Legs; I was not going to quit under any circumstance"

So it's not unusual for players to be nervous before a match - including great champions. The second thought is to get the blood flowing back in the system.  Allow your players enough time before a match.  It may take an extra 15 minutes of hitting or running."

Tom Parham
Coached 45 First Team All-Americans
Three Time NAIA National Champions (1979, 1984 and 1990)
Four Time National Coach of the Year
Elon University Men's and Women's Coach

Mental Game Forum

7. What do I say to a player who "Tanks" a match?When a player tanks a match, there is a withdrawal of energy, effort, and emotion. Tanking is an inefficient defense mechanism for controlling anxiety. Before it begins, the player is usually concerned about winning the match. When winning outcome is unlikely and anxiety sets in, players who tend to tank often pick excuses around which tanking will be based upon (i.e., windy conditions, opponent's unsportsmanlike behavior, loud spectators, opponent playing incredibly well, etc.). They rationalize that these excuses are somehow not worth putting the effort.

What to say to a player who is tanking? The goal is to recruit player's energy and motivate him/her for the rest of the 'battle' by offering hope, encouragement, and advice. Explain that the next few points can turn the match around, but only if the focus is on the process, not the outcome (i.e., winning the point). Focus may be on (a) hitting greater targets, (b) increasing shot level tolerance to a certain number, (c) doing what he/she does the best (i.e., certain pattern, spin, ball arc, etc.) which will increase the competence (and therefore confidence) as well as a likelihood of winning a point. Emphasize to control the controllable, stay positive (using constructive self-talk), and in present. Player may be also asked: if you keep fighting, what message will this send to your opponent and peers not only for this one, but the future matches?

Comments from Dom Lausic


Tanking carries many judgments that may be longer lasting than a match lost. Tanking may be a withdrawal of emotional energy by the athlete to protect her/his ego, fear of failure, or "numbing out" and becoming unable to move on the court. Be aware that as Coach, your ego is also involved. Ask the athlete to describe what she/he was aware of during the match. For example, "How did you feel today? It appeared that you weren't moving to the ball? When you fell behind, you seemed to put in less effort." Remember that the clear intention is to help the athletes become aware of their tendencies under stress, not to label them as "Quitters". Every tennis player has played a match in fear or confusion that would be labeled "Tanking" by someone else. To teach the "Game within the game" is to commit to starting each point, moving to each ball and knowing that you brought all of yourself to each match!

Dr. Bryce Young
President, Peak Performance Training is an extensive resource for high school tennis coaches with over 300 tennis drills, video clips, tennis team practice formats and a tennis coach’s forum. High school tennis coaches will also gain access to the tennis team Line-up Maker and the tennis Strategy Maker. provides everything to organize your high school tennis team from team practice formats to match play strategies!

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