What Makes a Great Tennis Class

A tennis class should make you better, fitter, and most importantly, absolutely love tennis. At Fault Tolerant Tennis, we design our classes around five primary areas:

  1. Ball-striking
  2. Vision
  3. Balance
  4. Conditioning
  5. Fun

Pretty much everything we do is aimed at one, and typically multiple, of those five goals. You might be wondering – where are tactics and strategy on that list? We practice those in the context of the other five skills. For example, a vision drill might integrate an approach-volley combination, with a focus on seeing the approach shot clearly off the ground, and seeing the volley clearly in the air.


Our goal during ball-striking drills is to give students the most frequent, high-quality reps they can get. We employ the weighted shadow swing often, to maximize the proprioceptive feedback students get as they swing. This allows us, as coaches, to better see exactly where any force production leaks may exist, and correct them in the experimental environment of the shadow swing, rather than the chaotic environment that is actually hitting the ball.

We also put students in situations that will expose any ball-striking issues. For example, we’ll often practice low balls with a hand-toss feed that the student must let double bounce. Why? Because it’s difficult, and, crucially, it is more difficult than the low balls they’ll see in a match. Our goal is to drive the students ball-striking skill past what they need for match tennis, so that match tennis becomes easy.


With lower level players, we use verbal cuing for vision. Say “bounce” as the ball bounces, or “hit” as your opponent strikes it. This forces the student’s attention to the fixation in question, and they slowly form a habit of seeing the ball there through repetition.

Higher level players don’t randomly lose track of the ball in non-novel situations, but in novel situations, they still do. Vision drills with higher level players typically focus on unique or difficult situations, like taking an approach shot on the rise, or playing a shot off of your shoe-strings. Obviously, many skills are required to succeed in these kinds of situations, but vision is one of the most under-discussed and under-trained. I can’t tell you how many good players I’ve seen fail in these spots because of a simple lack of attention.


A bosu ball is a great tool to increase the difficulty of balance exercises. Balancing on an unstable surface helps drive your brain’s adaptation past what’s necessary to balance on court.

Balance training works great in a group setting, because it can be done in the down-time between spurts of hitting. For example, on a court of four, we may have two students hitting and two students performing a related balance exercise while they wait for their turn.

This engages all four students to be engaged, plus it allows them to oscillate between the balance experience and the act of hitting. If we’re doing, for example, a single foot preparation hold on the forehand, then when the student gets back to hitting the forehand moments later, their body and brain are already primed from the balance exercise, and they should be able to really feel their weight through the ground.


Even a highly technical sport like tennis requires strength, speed, and cardiovascular fitness in order to succeed. Hitting drills are designed to be high tempo, with short rest periods interspersed if necessary. Periodic sprinting is integrated into the class in a way so as not to break the flow. For example, students might perform a forehand drill, and afterwards, run sprints for every ball into the net.

Integrating conditioning into our classes relates very heavily to our final goal – fun. We do not want our students to be miserable; quite the opposite, we want them to love tennis, and conditioning can’t kill that love.


I’ve seen high performance tennis classes that are not fun. They’re serious. But not just serious, SeriousTM. The coach wears a stern face, the kids get reprimanded for talking or laughing. We don’t run our classes that way.

Tennis is a game, so let your students play. Don’t reprimand them for laughing, or making jokes, or chatting. As long as they aren’t interfering with the class, or detracting from the experience of another student, let them experiment and enjoy themselves.

Tennis itself is fun, so you don’t need to do anything crazy for your students to love your class. Avoid wait times that are too long; design your games to get people in maximum rhythm, hitting maximum balls/minute. Be cognizant of the experience of both your strongest and weakest player.

Our classes provide a warm, welcoming, safe place for students to strive for excellence. Make no mistake, excellence is a focus – we’ll give students everything they need to compete at a high level, but doing that doesn’t require mean mugging and yelling.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *