My son got to partake in a very unique type of drill session on Saturday morning (thank you, Steve!) at the Pacific Palisades Tennis Center in Pacific Palisades, California. It’s called LiveBall, and it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen.
Here’s how it works . . . there are as many as 10 people on a court with one coach feeding balls to start each point. Two people are the “kings” working together as a doubles team on one side of the net. On the other side of the net are those players vying to take over the “king” position. The coach feeds a ball to one of the challengers who has to return it crosscourt. Then, players play out the point. As soon as the point ends, and I mean AS SOON AS (meaning split-second timing), the coach feeds another ball to the other challenger who can return it anywhere in the court. Play continues like this until either (A) the “kings” win 2 points or (B) the challengers win 4 points. If the challengers win 4 points before their opponents win 2, they then run like crazy to the other side of the net taking over the “king” spot. If the “kings” win 2 points first, then the challengers step off the court, and the next pair plays. It sounds confusing, but, believe me, players catch on pretty quickly, and the game goes on non-stop for 2 straight hours.
The session my son participated in was an Open LiveBall Session comprised of several former college players, a former tour player-turned-teaching-pro, a current tour player, and a college-bound freshman (among others). The tennis center also offers sessions based on NTRP rating for both men and women. The level of tennis and the speed at which it was played was dizzying! Talk about great training for doubles – wow! The players are using every trick in the book to score points on their opponents, including head fakes, no-look shots, tweeners, and spins like I’ve never seen before. The creativity was incredible, and the ball striking skills of these men and women was as good as I’ve seen at many professional events. My son came off the court so pumped for his doubles matches this coming weekend!
For the junior coaches out there, this is a great way for you to get several kids on the court simultaneously, building their doubles skills while improving their fitness levels, too. It’s fun, fast-paced, and the players visibly improve as the session progresses. I saw my son begin to incorporate more variety into his approach shots and volleys as he watched the other players have success with some non-traditional choices. And, since the players are with a mix of partners throughout the session, they learn to think on the fly and improvise as they try to gain/maintain “king” status. My son had a blast and came off the court at the end of the 2 hours sufficiently worked out.
Oh, and another perk for him . . . he made some incredible new tennis contacts for his next trip to SoCal!