Today I'm going to talk about what of my favourite subject, condition games. There are a number of reasons why you should play condition games. One of the main reasons I like them is that they allow to play different shots than normal in a competitive setting. Especially if we keep playing the same people we tend to play similar shots and get into patterns. This may be that we are just better at certain shots than others, lack confidence in some shots, or don't even consider some of the other options available to us. Whatever the reason, a good condition game makes us think and try new shots. This is an effective method for improving our tactics, creativity, and an increased understanding of or strengths and weaknesses.
Some condition games are just a lot of fun while others can extend rallies and improve our conditioning. We can also use condition games to make a matchup more challenging for the stronger player. In drill we generally hit shots in a set pattern, or sometimes have an option. In condition games we normally have options, but we can also limit our options on 1 or both players as we focus on improving the shot quality. I believe that set drill have a place in practice. Normally I use them to warmup, learn a movement pattern, or improve the technique of a shot. Once a person is pretty good technically they need to use more condition games and drills with options. Adding options into a practice makes the player have to anticipate and make decisions. As when we do set drills and know where the next ball is going we often move to the area before the shot was hit. So try and incorporate some drills with options or condition games into your practices. Here's a list of some of my favourites.
My Favourite Condition Games
1a. 1 player has to hit everything straight vs. anything 1 b. both players hit only straight (off the drop you can trickle boast. this prevents cheating after your drop).
2a. length game. 2b. length game and short on the volley 2c. length game and only short if you volley a crosscourt 2d. length for 1 player only, anything for the other player 2e. if you volley you can hit anything, if you don't you can only hit straight drives (for 1 player or both)
3a. short vs. deep 3b. change front to back if the back player volleys the front players length
4. if the ball hits the back wall on the bounce you win the point (or the other player has to hit a boast)
5. only 1 short shot allowed per rally (for 1 or both players)
6. must hit 2 volleys to length before going short
7. must hit 10 lengths before going short
8. if you don't volley the serve you lose the point
9. 1 player hits only length vs. 1 player that hits only straight
10. crosscourt game (short or deep)
11. allowed 1 crosscourt drive per rally (1 or both players)
12. not allowed to boast
13. start the rally with a back wall boast (1 player serves the whole game or you can switch depending on who wins the point)
14a. every shot over the service line (for 1 or both players). 14b. allowed 1 shot under the service line per rally (1 player or both)
15. front of court game (no pace allowed, every shot lands in front of the short line, the serve is a boast)
These are some of my favourites. You can pick and choose some depending on what area of your game needs attention. If you crosscourt too much, don't volley enough, want to work on your shot selection from a specific area of the court, etc than pick a condition game that makes you hit straight, look to volley, or make decisions.
You can also put other conditions like 1 player serves the entire game. This will allow 1 player to work on their serve and 1 to work on their return. Also giving 1 player a few points to start the game with can make it more challenging. Other times I will ask people to start at random scores and finish off the game, say 8-9 or 9-6. I'll also play normal rallies with a momentum game where you have to win x# of consecutive rallies to win the game (while also making sure your opponent doesn't do this before you do). If the players are different levels I may say 1 person has to win just 2 rallies in a row while the other (and stronger) person has to win 4 or 5. I also will use targets for bonus points that encourage people to hit different shots that I want them to practice. You can also play 2 corner or 3 corner court. You can play a game to 20 where you eliminate 1 corner that you're allowed to hit into after you get to 5, and then another at 10, and one more at 15. There are plenty of condition games to keep practice exciting, competitive and challenging.
What's your favourite condition game? Is it on my list or am I missing it?