Let’s have a look at it from a motor learning perspective. When we learn new movements, we do that based on what we feel. In terms of the instruction, you do as a tennis coach certain studies suggest how much and what type of feedback we should be giving to the players.
Now, here’s a very simple mathematical model. If we’re spending 15 minutes on the court and we’re with three players, that means five minutes rotation with these two on one side, one on the other side. I (Carl Maes) would always choose whatever the goal of the exercises is, this could e.g. be the wide defensive backhand.
When I (Carl) have decided what the aim of the exercise is I (Carl) will always try to have two players on the sides of the subject that we are practicing. So, if we are practicing the wide defensive backhand and I (Carl) am feeding this first difficult ball, I (Carl) would have two people on the other side of the net. Now, you could argue they’re going to be two rotations of five minutes there.
So, in terms of numbers of balls that the players are hitting, this is exactly the same as if they were to be there alone for five minutes and two players on my side.
However, spending 10 minutes on this wide defensive backhand end alternating with the other person, it’s also there is in my (Carl) opinion, better and in terms of the feedback that we are able to give and the retention of information will be better.
Imagine that you are playing one backhand and the next point the other player is playing. What I (Carl) as a coach can then do is to provide you with some feedback and you’ve got 10-15 seconds to think about it whilst the other player on court is doing his/her wide backhand.
So, I (Carl) always try to have two players on the side of the goal of the exercise. That sometimes requires some creativity, but I (Carl) do feel that it’s better to have them 10 minutes where they’re alternating shots rather than five minutes and have this short burst of practice and information all crammed into five minutes.