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As KCTL enters into its 4th season this year, we've made a pledge to improve our program at all levels. We never ask the students to be perfect, only that they be the best they can be. And now, we're holding ourselves to the same standards.

To do that, we're using the pre-season to hold two days of volunteer training. Part I was last Saturday, April 20th and Part II is tomorrow, Saturday, April 27th. If you haven't RSVP'd yet but want to participate -- join our Volunteers Meetup page or RSVP on Facebook. (If you missed Part I of the training, you're still very welcome to come to Part II as different material will be covered.)

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Volunteer Training Part I
Last week, Jon W., the KCTL Vice-President, led a group of 10 or so, through some basic knowledge and drills specifically targeted for kids 10 and under. We went through the four types of tennis balls and how they're made specifically for certain age groups so that they bounce at waist height and have a certain pace to them.

Hand-Eye & Timing Coordination
Then we broke up into pairs to work on several drills. The drills for kids under 10 mainly consisted of dribbling the tennis ball between partners in the doubles alley with slight variations: stationary, while movings, with two hands, and with one hand. This advances to dribbling the ball between partners while catching it on the center of their racquet.

For the youth athletes, the goal of these drills are two-fold: to work on basic hand-eye coordination as well as timing. For the volunteers, we focused on how the kids bodies should be positioned, how their feet should be moving, and how to turn it into a game rather than a drill where students can count the number of successful passes in a minute. The winning student(s) can help lead the next drill.

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Serving Fundamentals
Then we worked on the basic components of the serve. For the drill, we all stood in a line with a good amount of distance between, and then we tossed the ball up with one hand and made the serve motion with our other hand to catch the ball. After we could all do that numerous times in a row, we moved to using the racquet and catching the ball with our hand and racquet at the point highest above our heads where we would want to make contact for a serve.

The serve drill helps new and young tennis players get a feel for what is a good throw as well as the swinging arm motion for a serve. It focuses them to understand and improve upon the fundamentals of the serve, without getting distracted by things like speed, strength and "getting it over the net."

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End of Class / Group Tennis Games
After the drills, Jon walked us through two of the most popular games played at the sites 3 Strikes and Jail Break. In 3 Strikes, a volunteer feeds the students balls and sets up an "in-area" where the student has to hit the ball to. It can be as simple as returning the shot within the singles lines to as specific as returning a down-the-alley forehand past the service box. If the student misses the shot that's a strike and they return to the end of the line. (If the student makes the shot, they return to the end of the line.) Once a student has three strikes, they're out.

The same premise applies for Jail Break, only if the student doesn't return the shot correctly, they move to the other side of the court where the volunteer is feeding balls, that side of the court is "jail." If a jailed player catches a ball of another player, they get to free themselves and get back in line, while the other player has to enter jail. It's similar to dodge ball rules in that way. Both games end when only one player is left.

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Volunteer Training Part II
Join us tomorrow, for Part II where we'll be focusing on drills and games for the older kids. Training is held from 12:30 - 3pm at the tennis court in Marcy Playground in Bed-Stuy (the corner of Myrtle Ave and Nostrand Ave.) Please be on-time as that's another life lesson that we'll be stressing with the kids this season. Lunch will be provided.

View all the photos from Volunteer Training Part I on the KCTL Facebook page.