Who doesn’t enjoy including fun activities and distractions into a training session? Or come to that, having a whole training session be a fun activity?
A few years ago I was training a player in unfavourable conditions. It had rained a lot the night before and the fields were completely underwater. The weather wasn’t ideal so we decided to train on the tennis courts which were mainly dry with just a couple of easily avoidable puddles.
We were just about to finish the exercises I had planned for the day when an idea occurred to me. I wasn’t sure if it would work or not but I though why not try? After all when life gives you lemons… play TennisPolo! I grabbed two handsticks and a couple of tennis balls and we went one on each side of the net. We started to rally as if it were tennis. To begin with it was quite hard so we decided to let the ball bounce twice before passing it to the other side of the net. Soon the rally turned into a competition, we no longer just wanted to pass the ball but actually challenge each other. We started to play for points and set out these rules:
- The TennisPolo court is the size of the serving boxes on one half of the court.
- The ball must bounce before the server hits it and the serve must be taken behind the halfway point of the serving side.
- The receiver can let the ball bounce once or hit it on the volley.
- You can hit the ball in the air as many times as you like, for example, the receiver can stop the trajectory of the ball in the air, let the ball bounce and then continue tapping the ball in the air until ready to pass.
- If the ball goes in the net it is a point for the other player.
- If the attackers stick touches the net or passes over onto the other side, it is a point for the opponent.
- The ball can’t touch the body. That’s a point for the other side.
- If the point is lost the service is changed.
- The game must be won by two clear points, for example at 9-9 the game is only won by a player reaching 11-9.
- There is also a doubles version of this game with the same rules and partners taking alternating shots. Service alternates between partners when the serve is lost and then regained.
There are various benefits to be obtained through playing TennisPolo, both physical and mental. The physical benefits are:
- General athletic capacity
In order to hit the ball you first have to arrive at it, so everything starts with general physical fitness which is vital to being capable of playing the game.
As I have mentioned in previous articles, balance is key to polo. Hitting the ball from a stand still is one thing but getting accustomed to hitting the ball from difficult positions is what is going to work our bodies, forcing balance and helping our bodies respond better to regaining balance and playing on.
In polo you are always coordinating your body’s movements with what your eyes are seeing, rapidly taking into account where the ball is, what direction and speed it’s coming at and where we want to hit it. Both for those to whom this quality comes easily or naturally and for those who struggle a little more with this, this game is a fun and dynamc way of improving or maintianing this skill.
The mental benefits are:
Concentration is one of the most important mental qualities in polo. You must always be switched on and thinking about the game, avoiding all distractions. For many it is not so easy to concentrate solely on the game or to enter ‘the zone’ a state in which the mind is fully focussed on the task at hand, forgetting everything else. This game will help develop that skill.
- Competitive Spirit
Most great players love competing. Winning one-on-one comes with a great satisfaction and most people enjoy that feeling and it is what makes them train and work hard to compete well and become the best player they can.
- Problem Solving
Playing polo, much like playing tennis or most other competitive sports, is an exercise in constant problem resolution. In a match you have to try to win using experiences from past matches, practices and training sessions. Each opponent is different as is each match and season. The ability to solve problems is developed over time until it become intuitive.
For these reasons and many more this game is a fun and beneficial activity for all polo players regardless of handicap, age and fitness levels.
I hope to see lots of you practicing and playing TennisPolo. Tag us and use #TennisPolo to show us how you’re getting on through videos and photos.