One of the hardest things a tennis parent can go through is watching their child throwing away a game with a double fault. Maybe they’re tired, or maybe they lost confidence in their serve throughout the match causing them to hit an error during a big point. While the serve is the only shot in tennis where the player can set their own conditions for the shot, it also seems to be one of the easiest places where games can collapse. Having a good serve can make your child’s life a lot easier on a tennis court and can prevent these kinds of situations from happening. When a player has a good serve, it takes a lot of mental pressure off of them because they can more easily win their service games. It can also give them the confidence to play hard on big points. If your child can win most of their service games, they have a much higher chance at winning a match.
The good news is that the serve is one of the easiest strokes to practice in tennis. It is the only shot that your child can practice by themselves without a wall or a ball machine. All they need is a tennis court and a basket of balls. In this article, we will go over some easy ways to improve your child’s serve. You can also check out our serve post which goes over the basic mechanics of a solid serve.
1. The Serve Toss
The Toss is one of the most important parts of a serve. Without a reliable toss, your child will not be able to hit a reliable serve. When your child tosses the ball, it should have little or no spin on it. They should not let the ball roll off their fingers but instead, should let go of the ball with all their fingers at the same time. Rolling the ball off their fingers can create an unreliable serve because it is incredibly difficult to get the ball to roll off the fingers the same way every time. You can tell if the toss was rolled off the fingers if there is a lot of spin on the ball toss. Once your child can reliably place the toss the next thing for them to conquer is where to toss the ball.
Where your child should toss the ball on their a serve will depend on what kind of serve they use and what type of serve they are trying to hit. If they do not jump on their serve, then their toss should be around their front foot. In other words, if they were to let their ball toss bounce it should hit their foot. If your child jumps on their first serve, then the toss should be a foot or two in front of them, so they have room to jump forward into the serve. If your child jumps on their second serve, then the toss should be above their head so they can more easily get spin and hit a more consistent serve. The last thing is that the toss should be high enough that when they go to hit the ball, their body is fully extended and almost in a straight line. This will give them the most margin for error on the serve (For more info check out our serve post).
(Notice how they are in a straight line with their arm fully extended at contact)
2. The Right Arm
Kids have a tendency to slow down their swing and push their serve over when they get nervous. This is the opposite of what you want them to do when they are in a pressure situation. By slowing down their swing, they not only lose power but they lose spin as well. Causing their serve to be both weak and easy to attack. While they don’t want to swing faster, they do want to keep their normal swing speed. By doing this, they will be able to keep spin and power on the ball. With a little bit of practice, they will be able to use the spin to get their serve in almost every time. When your child is practicing, it is important that they make sure they keep their arm swing speed in time with the rest of their shot. An even arm speed will give them more spin, power, consistency, and control giving them confidence in their serve.
3. Taking time in between serves
Kids tend to rush when they are on the tennis court. They go straight from one point to the next without thinking. One of the best things your child can do is take their time in between points and serves. By teaching them to take their time it allows them to think about where they want to hit the serve and what kind of serve they want to hit. It also allows them to set up correctly for each serve. When kids rush in between points and serves, they tend not to think about how they are setting up for their serve. When they are not set up correctly, it is much harder for them to hit a solid, consistent serve. Simply slowing down will allow your child to calm down, focus in and get ready for the next serve.
4. Practice makes perfect
When I was in high school the thing that improved my serve the most was simply practice. My parents would drop me off at our local tennis courts with a basket of balls for an hour, and I would just practice my serve. The best part about the serve is that you don’t need anyone else on the court to practice them. As long as your child has a court and some tennis balls they can practice their serve on their own. When you have practiced a shot thousands of times, it is easy to have confidence in it. So get them out there to practice their serves!
I hope this post was helpful! Please let us know in the comments below!