Teaching Overhead Striking Tennis Serve

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My name is Bearish Bull and I will be acting as a coach and role model in teaching

the initial experience of the tennis serve, an overhead striking movement, to an 8 year old boy

named Joey in a safe, fun and developmentally appropriate manner. Because Joey has no

previous experience with this movement exercise and because he is 8, there are special

considerations that must be attended to in order to set him up with a good first experience.

Factors that I will be paying particular attention to in the design and practice of this one on one

exercise are things such as his individual and environmental constraints, the constraints of the

task itself to include equipment choice, the provision of action prompting verbal ques,

feedback, and ways to retain or refocus attention should his motivation or engagement

wander. My ultimate goal is for Joey to have a joyous experience in learning the gross motor

movement pattern associated with the overhead tennis serve.

Joey is for the most part a typical 8 year old boy free of any current injuries or physical

abnormalities. The concepts of universality and specificity apply as, aside from his somewhat

smaller sized hands, he is much like his peers. Joey’s height, weight, and strength are not

detrimentally limiting factors in the acquisition of the tennis serve, however limb length,

balance and coordination do require special consideration. For example, there are particular

body scaling factors such as limb length to equipment size that need to be matched so

appropriate affordance is made available for, and subsequently perceived by the child. Also,

balance can be difficult to maintain due to the nature of this overhead striking movement. In

reaching up to strike the ball, body adjustments that reduce stability are required in order to

gain the mobility necessary to complete the motion. Because of this, particular safeguards such

as shoe tread and court surface condition has been incorporated into the exercise.

Furthermore, other structural constraints such as multi-limb coordination and the adjustments

I’ve made for them will be detailed in the task constraint discussion below.

In addition to Joey’s structural constraints, there are also important individual functional

constraints that need to be addressed. Joey has no experience in this particular skill and is

exhibiting an eagerness to get started, however he is an 8 year old whose attention or

motivation can easily be deterred midstream and therefore I will be making use of some

techniques to keep him engaged. Because we are working 1-on1, a loss of attention should be

a small concern however should it become an issue I will refocus him by instructing him to say

“ball” as an emphatic reply any time I say “tennis”. To keep Joey motivated with a positive

attitude I have been sure to provide a setting that finds him comfortable and free from

distractions. Also, I will only provide positive, and no negative, feedback throughout the course

of our interactions. Undoubtedly, the teaching of a skill does require some critiquing so that

good adjustments can be made. The delivery of such critiques is an area where a coach has to

be particularly sensitive so as to not to dispirit the learner. People, children included, do not

take particularly well to criticism, especially when it is hostile. Making us of a technique known

as the Compliment Sandwich is an effective means of providing critical feedback in the interest

of greater skill acquisition. By opening up the critique with a genuine and applicably relevant

compliment, the top bread slice in the sandwich, I will set the stage for assertive

communication with a listener that actually hears me. The meat portion of the sandwich

comes next and is where I provide the main critique. Finally, the other bread slice...
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