Coach's Corner: Three Effective Volley Drills
Mark Gellard has spent the past decade traveling on the professional tour and currently works for the exclusive Star River Team in Guangzhou, China. In this article, Mark illustrates three simple yet highly effective exercises that should be performed, and mastered, by players of all ages and abilities in order to increase their forecourt skills.
‘T For three’
Purpose: This drill is multi-dimensional in nature as it has three specific positions for players to work from. Hand-eye coordination, reaction speed, lateral movement, and ball redirection are all worked extensively, making it a fundamental exercise for anyone who desires to improve their net skills.
In this drill, all players begin by lining up on the center service line. Player 1 is positioned on the service line. Player 2 is on the opposing side to player 1 and is within touching distance of the net. Player 3 takes their position behind player 2 on the service line (as shown in pictures). Player 1 controls the court and alternates their shots between players 2 and 3. They Begin by playing a volley directly at player 2 (located close to the net) who works on hand speed and plays the ball immediately back. Player 1 then plays their second volley to the left side of player 2 where player 3 will move laterally to play the ball back. Player 1 then plays another volley back to player 2 who once again reacts the ball back. Player 1 will now complete the pattern by playing another volley, but this time to the right side of player 2 where player 3 will now move laterally to the other side working on movement and control. This is a cooperative drill that requires all players to work as a team in order to achieve a minimum of 30 shots before switching positions.
Purpose: This drill provides players with an opportunity to improve a vast array of skills. Anticipation and racket control as the primary focus as this exercise requires a high level of intensity in addition to movement patterns specific to the forecourt.
This drill requires 2 players and begins by having both positioned halfway between the service line and net. The ball is put in play and a volley-volley rally begins. After 5 successive volleys have been completed, player 1 plays a lob volley and retreats back several steps to the service line in anticipation of the impending overhead. Player 2 moves into a desirable location to receive the lob and plays an overhead back at player 1. The overhead must be played firmly enough to test the opposing player’s reactions. Player 1 reacts the ball back in to play and both players retake their starting positions between the service line and net resuming their volley-volley rally. This pattern is repeated with both players taking opposite roles. A successful set is achieved when both players have successfully completed 2 overheads.
‘Short Volley, Long Volley’
Purpose: This drill provides an excellent opportunity to increase racket head control and court awareness while simultaneously improving technique.
Setup: To begin, both players stand halfway between the service line and net with the goal of achieving a ten-shot volley-volley rally without allowing the ball to bounce. Once ten shots have been successfully achieved while continuing to keep the ball in play, both players must progress back several steps (towards the baseline) until they reach the service line. Again, players must achieve another ten-shot rally from the new location. Repeat this twice more, halfway between the service line and baseline and then finally from on the baseline. Once a ten-ball rally has been achieved at all four locations, repeat the exercise, but this time moving back towards the starting position (halfway between the service line and net). Each progression backward not only increases the complexity of the task but elicits a greater understanding of the mechanics involved when hitting volleys from different positions in relation to the net.
As the game continues to evolve and points become shorter, having a finely tuned net game could prove advantageous. With the current game requiring such precision from the baseline, players seldom spend enough time or emphasis improving necessary skills at the net. Xu Yifan who won this year’s women’s doubles title at the Miami Open and who trains at Star River team in China remarked, “I always enjoyed coming to the net and being aggressive in both my singles and doubles. Having a solid baseline game is crucial but nowadays having the ability to finish points is important so I always like to ensure I attribute enough of my practice time developing my volley skills”.
Using the three drills outlined in this article will provide you with an increased technical and tactical proficiency at the net that will elicit a greater feeling of confidence in your ability to finish points. Being able to move forwards and take away the opponent’s time is one of the most efficient ways to improve your level of play.
Mark Gellard is a PTR Professional, USPTA Elite Professional, and NSCA-CSCS certified strength and conditioning coach Mark has worked with players, such as Martina Hingis, Nadia Petrova, Danka Kovinic and Bethanie Mattek-Sands and was the former Head Female Development Coach for the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation. He currently works in China for the prestigious Star River team. Mark played Division 1 college tennis for the University of South Alabama and earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Mark welcomes you to visit his website -www. firststriketennis.us