How to Build and Use a Tennis Backboard

A tennis backboard is a perfect training tool for all skill levels.

It was first created in 1926 by Mary Browne. Mary was a tenure tennis coach at the University of Chicago at the time and decided that her players needed something that would allow them to play by themselves whenever they want.

What is a Tennis backboard?

Backboards allow the player the opportunity to play by themselves without the hassle of picking up dozens of tennis balls. Many pros have used backboards in the past to improve their game. For Example, Pete Sampras started his tennis career using a backboard when he was 7 years old. There are many uses for a backboard and I will explain some of them. I will also tell you how to build your backboard. 

Uses of a tennis backboard

1. Hand-eye coordination

Hand-eye coordination is essential in almost every sport in the world including tennis. The backboard can help with this because you’re able to concentrate more on this ability without the distractions or pressure of facing a real opponent. 

2. Ball placement

Rallying with the backboard gives you more control over where to place the ball. One thing to keep in mind when playing the backboard is that the ball you are hitting will also be the ball you are returning. This is quite important because you can stand in the shoes of your opponent and see where your ball lands. This also allows you to see which spots on the court are the hardest to return to.

3. Ball handling skills 

As you get more advanced in tennis, ball handling skills become more apparent. The backboard is the perfect tool to use when it comes to improving all the different types of spins and power you should put on the ball. 

4. Conditioning 

The backboard is an opponent technically. It is tireless and will always return your shot no matter how good it is. You constantly have to be moving back and forth because there is no chance of winning. This will help build your stamina and acceleration during long rallies you might encounter during an actual match.

How to build a tennis backboard

The best part about a backboard is that anything can be a backboard. If you don’t have the finances to build or buy your own, you can just go up to almost any wall and play.

There are many types of materials you can use, but the most common ones are wood and cement. The question being is how much you would like to spend. Wood is the cheapest and requires a medium amount of work to put up, but it is not the best material when it comes to hitting a ball at it.

Fortunately, it is also very easy to replace boards in case of damage. Fiberglass is a good backboard, and it gives a great bounce. Unfortunately, they are very fragile, are not the easiest to replace, and are more susceptible to dead spots. They are costly as well. The last type of backboard is cement.

It is more expensive and requires a lot of time and work to put up, but the ball bounces off very well. It is difficult to damage and is invulnerable to dead spots, but it is very difficult to replace. Below are recommendations on how to build a backboard.

Wood backboard for tennis

The following are the materials needed for the wood backboard.

  1. 4”x 8” RTD Plywood boards (quantity 2)
  2. 2’x 4’x 8” boards (quantity 4)
  3. 2’x 3’x 8” boards (quantity 2)          
  4. 2’x 4’x 2” boards (quantity 2)
  5. Wood screws: 3 inches 1lb  
  6. Drill
  7. Tape Measure 
  8. Builder level
  9. Paint

Step 1. Lay down 2’x 4’x 8” boards in the form of a rectangle. Use the builder level to make sure the rectangle is symmetrical.

Step 2. Use the 3 screws and drill the boards together. 

Step 3. Once the rectangle has been assembled, place the 2’x 3’x 8” boards inside the rectangle in equal parts

Step 4. Screw the boards together so that they do not move.

Step 5. Now that the frame has been assembled, place the plywood boards into place on the frame and screw them in. 

Step 6. Use the paint to paint a line approximately 3.5ft high. 

Step 7. Stand the backboard up and place it against a wall.

Step 8. Play!

Cement backboard for tennis

For cement, It is recommended that you have it professionally done. As stated above, both require quite a bit of money, and it is extremely difficult to do by yourself.

Unless you have the knowledge and the physical capabilities to do so, it is not recommended to do it without professional help. Below is a picture of what a concrete backboard should look like. 

Fibreglass backboard for tennis

In the United States, a fibreglass backboard is very common and is seen at almost every tennis club or academy. It is very expensive with a cost that could be as high as $4000. I would recommend getting this professionally done because of how expensive and difficult this project can be.

In conclusion, the history of the backboard is very simple. It was made for players to play by themselves, and it offers a lot of benefits when it comes to your training. When deciding what type of board you want, it all depends on what you are willing to spend. Wood is the cheapest and easiest to make, but is the poorest quality among the three.

Fibreglass is very expensive but is of good quality. Cement is expensive and time-consuming, but will provide the best quality and will last forever. It is important to mention that you do not need an official backboard to play. Any wall a ball can bounce off of will do just fine.  

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