Tennis Ball Reaction Drill
The Tennis Ball Reaction Drill is a great way to get your players working on change of direction while responding to an unknown circumstance. This drill combines change of direction with competition to create a drill that forces players to get used to reacting to a circumstance in a high pressure, competitive environment. Players tend to love this drill so it is a great drill for creating excitement.
The setup of the drill is very basic which makes it a great drill that you can do anywhere. To start the drill a coach is standing between two players holding two tennis balls. At the coaches feet is a container. The size and shape of the container can vary depending on the goal of the drill. The starting position of each player can vary but in the most basic drill each player is facing backwards. The coach will throw the balls out onto the court or field and give a go command. On the coach’s command each player will turn around and retrieve a ball and return it to the box. The first one to get the ball back to the box wins.
The simplicity of the drill is one of the strongest points of the drill. Because it is so simple, the drill can get up and running very quickly. In addition this simplicity gives the coach a huge range to tailor the drill to meet each individual player’s needs. If a player needs to work on operating in a small area he can give them a shorter toss while players that need to work on getting up to speed over a longer distance can get a longer toss.
There are a variety of different ways that the drill can be changed up but one of the best ways to change it is in the starting position of the players. When introducing the drill it’s best to have players standing so they can pick up on the drill quickly, but as players get more familiar with the drill the coach can start changing up their positions. This is a great time to work on getting off the ground and gaining speed form a non-traditional position. Some of the more popular starting positions are laying down on either their backs or bellies, on either knee, or on their butt. However you change the starting position players are going to be forced to learn to move efficiently and react to where the ball is going.
Another way to adapt the drill is to change where they are returning the ball to. While a box is a nice simple way to do the drill this can be changed depending on what you want players to focus on. One way to force players to pay attention to details and focus all the way through the drill is to make the box smaller. A perfect way to do this is to have a short saucer cone and have players set the ball on the top of the cone. This forces them to come to balance and focus while they are tired and under pressure. Another option to increase competition is to have the players return the balls to a tennis ball can. The one who get their ball on the bottom wins.
The Tennis Ball Reaction Drill is a great drill to help players work on their change of direction skills. It can be easily manipulated to focus on whatever the coach determines needs to be worked on. This simple drill is a staple of football conditioning programs across the country and can easily be adapted to any level.
(See Also) Strength and Conditioning Program