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Best Practice Games: Five Person

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Best Practice Games: Five Person

Skill level: intermediate through advanced
Age: all
Number of players: 4 - 6 or pro plus 3 - 5
Focus: doubles elements: net play, passing shots, lobs

In my classes, this is the most popular of all group games for intermediate and better players. It offers lots of doubles-like action, but usually at a faster pace. Advanced players enjoy it as much as intermediates.

Note that the instructions are addressed to the person who is leading the game. That person need not be a pro, despite the "P" designation on the diagram.

1. Put two players at net, one at the baseline behind them, and two at the opposite baseline.

2. You can play as one of the two at net (as shown in the diagram) or just feed from near the alley.

3. Feed to A's forehand. Once the ball is in play, anyone can hit any type of shot into any part of the doubles court. Play the point out, with D trying to handle the balls that get by her two net players.

4. Start the second point by feeding to B's forehand, the third to A's backhand, then the fourth to B's backhand. Keep repeating this cycle.

5. Play until one team reaches ten points by a margin of two or more. If time is short at 9-all, let A and B choose which of them will take the feed, and have that point decide the game.

6. For the next round, rotate everyone but yourself one spot clockwise.

Variations:

  • Four Person: Eliminate D's position: play two at net and two at the opposite baseline. This more closely simulates doubles and is especially good for advanced players.
  • Six Person: Give D a partner at the baseline behind the two net players. This is a little less fun than the smaller alternatives, but it's still very popular.
  • Seven or eight people can play if you have a second court available. Two of the players will hit together on the second court while the others play. Play to seven instead of ten and rotate through the two spots on the extra court.
Tips:
  • Try to distribute players so that each rotation will create fairly balanced teams.
  • Be especially careful to avoid having the hardest groundstroke hitters at the opposite baseline when the more vulnerable players are at net.
  • In Six Person, and more rarely in Five Person, the net players sometimes need to scoot out of the way if the players hitting from behind them tend to be too powerful and/or wild. With sensible and/or not overly powerful players, Six Person is safer enough, but some individuals might best be limited to Four Person, which is at least as safe as doubles.
  • If you don't play, but feed from the alley instead, you might need to feed less advanced players only to the forehand or backhand to avoid making the ball angle into the player's body too awkwardly.
  • If one of the net players is never getting the ball because the two baseliners keep hitting to the other side of the court, offer the baseliners two points for winning a point by hitting to the side they're neglecting. The incentive works.
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