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Tennis Footwork Warmup

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These tennis footwork drills, adapted from a USTA sequence, are gentle enough to use as a first activity on the court. If you have two courts available, use the distance from the outer doubles line of one to the other. Most of the exercises go this full length, except where noted as "(half)." If you only have one court, go to the net and back for full-length exercises.

Doing these in order is recommended, but not crucial. Use a relaxed pace throughout.

"I" am the coach leading the drill, doing each exercise along with you. You can do this sequence alone or take turns within a group acting as the leader.

  1. Jog: Jog one full length.
  2. Backwards Jog
  3. Slides: Sliding, or side-stepping, is like a sideways gallop, where your feet come together, then one foot steps sideways so that your feet are widely separated. Face me. We'll slide along sideways, and each time I say "turn," we'll face the opposite way as we continue to slide.
  4. Butt Kicks: (half) Place your hands on your rear, palms out. Jog so that you kick your palm with your heel on each step.
  5. Backwards Skip: (half)
  6. Carioca: The carioca step is a way to move sideways at a constant speed. Your left foot crosses in front of your right, your right foot steps right, your left foot crosses behind your right, then your right foot steps right, and the pattern repeats. Face me. Each time I say "turn," we'll face the opposite way as we continue to carioca.
  7. Wedel: (half) Keeping your feet together, make small jumps slightly more sideways than forward, as if you were making quick turns on downhill skis.
  8. High-Knee Jog: (half) On each step, lift your knee as close to your chest as possible. Leaning back helps.
  9. Angle Slides: Facing backwards, do two fairly long slides at a 45-degree angle to your right, then two left, and so on.
  10. Jog and High Hop: Jog along slowly, then when I say "left" or "right," get as high a hop as you can off that foot.
  11. Backwards Snake: Jog backwards, completing an S-turn with every ten small steps or so.
  12. Baby Bounds: Facing forward, make fairly large jumps, more sideways than forward, from the ball of one foot to the ball of the other.
  13. Slide and Sprint: Face me. We'll slide along sideways, and each time I say "turn," we'll face the opposite way as we continue to slide along, but if I say "sprint," we'll sprint forward until I say "slide," at which time, you'll face me and slide again.
  14. Back, Split, and Sprint: Jog backward very slowly, then when I say "hold," maintain a bouncing split step. If I say "back," continue jogging backward slowly, but if I say "sprint," turn and sprint forward until I say "hold," after which I might say "sprint" or "back" again.
These drills are usually welcomed by even the laziest players, and on a cold day, they'll get everyone warm in a hurry.

If you have a favorite footwork drill you'd like to share, please describe it in our tennis forum.

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