Summer camps conjure images of young people enjoying outdoor activities such as paddling in canoes, taking nature hikes, and enjoying s’mores around nightly campfires, but they’re not just for kids. For those serious about improving their tennis game as well as those who want to learn how to play, a tennis camp may be worth considering.
The benefit of attending a tennis camp is to become a better player. This includes learning and improving basic skills while addressing physical fitness concerns in order to safely progress to the next level. Anyone, from those who have never held a tennis racket to advanced players, can benefit from time spent at camp. With excellent camps located worldwide, the trick is to select one that suits your needs and provides the specific training and environment that leads to noticeable improvements as well as an enjoyable experience.
Because tennis is a vigorous sport, all well-run camps incorporate physical fitness into the training regime. In addition to the benefits of a faster serve and more speed and stamina on the court, being fit helps prevent injuries on the court. Most programs will incorporate light weight training in addition to exercises selected to improve on-court performance. When it comes to tennis-specific training, a good instructor will begin by focusing on the basics, regardless of the experience level of the student. Even advanced players may have bad habits that hold them back from progressing to the next level of play. Accordingly, be honest about your skill level when applying for camp to avoid being placed in a group that may be at a higher level.
The basic skill set includes serving the ball to initiate a game and staying in bounds while delivering it; making forehand shots, which make up the majority of all play, utilizing the player’s strong side; the backhand shot, which is very often the most difficult to master; the lob shot, which can be decisive in winning a set; the overhead, a shot many players need assistance in perfecting, as it is typically delivered using way too much power; and how to volley, or in other words, how to keep the ball moving from one side of the net to the other until a set point opportunity arises. In all, finesse is stressed; unlike baseball, where it’s all about knocking the ball out of the park, the most successful tennis players have the ability to direct the ball with the perfect amount of power required to exactly the right location on the court. This surgical precision is what makes a great player.
For all of these skills, proper stance will also be addressed to ensure the player is ready to receive the serve and respond to volley shots. These techniques will be demonstrated for use in singles and doubles play. Students in advanced programs will learn how to use them in high-pressure competition scenarios.
Camps are typically organized by participant age and skill level. Facilities such as the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, Florida, operated by Wimbledon champion Chris Evert, specialize in training junior players from 8 to 18 years of age. Programs offered include weekend classes and programs where students live on campus, attending academic classes in addition to tennis and overall physical fitness training sessions. The students range in experience level, from those entirely new to the game to those who play competitively.
John Newcombe’s Tennis Ranch in Texas Hill Country between San Antonio and Austin offers a variety of programs geared to adult players at various skill levels. With a ratio of one instructor to every four students, individual attention is ensured; private instruction is also available. Newcombe’s students spend many hours on the court, in the gym, and in classroom seminars. Meals and lodging are included, with adult campers enjoying social activities at the ranch’s Aussie-style bar in the evening.
Women seeking to play better may be intrigued by the Cliff Drysdale Ladies Tennis Retreat. This ladies-only five-day intensive program is held at the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa in Rancho Mirage, California. In addition to daily tennis clinics combining drills and match play, at the conclusion of the program, participants are invited to compete in a Pro-Am tournament with ranked players, followed by an awards dinner. Set in the heart of Palm Springs, the resort offers spa, golf, and dining amenities of a world-class caliber, with a wealth of natural attractions in the vicinity.
Yet another option allows the entire family to train together. Located in Sarasota, Florida, IMG Academy was founded and originally operated as the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy. Utilizing an excellent four-to-one student-to-instructor ratio, the facility features 55 courts, including 17 clay and four indoor courts. Students receive on-court coaching as well as after-hours reviews of video to identify and address specific areas requiring improvement. The facility offers programs for recreational players as well as for juniors planning to play at the college level or players of any age seeking to play at a professional level.