Several tennis balls laid out on a running track

Sprint 'n' Catch

  • Good for groups of all abilities
  • Works reactions, acceleration and speed
  • Ideal for even-numbered groups of 2-16 athletes
  • Good for the running track and parks

Sprint 'n' Catch is a perfect way to have fun while working on reactions, acceleration and speed at the athlete's own pace.


One tennis ball for every two athletes. One cone per athlete.

Setting Up

Organise athletes into pairs. Mixed ability pairings are fine. Each pair is given one tennis ball and two cones and assigned an area in which to play.


One of the athletes in each pair places a cone by their feet and stands and holds the tennis ball out at arm's length.

The other athlete stands roughly three meters back (marking their position with a cone) facing their partner and in line with the outstretched arm.

At a moment of their choosing the athlete holding the ball drops it. The other athlete must run and catch the ball before it bounces a second time.

If the ball is caught then the distance should be increased slightly between each attempt until it can no longer be caught. If the ball is missed then the distance should be decreased slightly between each attempt until it can be caught.

After a few minutes athletes swap roles and play continues.


The athlete dropping the ball should be consistent: always holding the ball at shoulder height and always dropping it rather than throwing it downwards.

Group Size

A minimum of two players is needed to make up a single pair. Maximum numbers are limited by the area available, but remember that athletes will need space to decelerate after catching the ball. Up to about 16 players (i.e. eight pairs) usually works.


Competition Time

The run leader takes a ball and stands at a cone. Another cone is placed three meters away.

Each athlete has a turn at running and catching the ball from the three-meter point. Athletes that fail are out of the game. Athletes that are successful continue to the next round.

For the next round the start point is moved back 25cm. All remaining athletes attempt from this distance, with the unsuccessful being eliminated and the successful progressing.

This continues until only one athlete remains. If all athletes in a round fail then the cone is moved forwards 10cm and play repeats until at least one athlete is elimated from the round.

Left or Right?

One athlete in each pair stands with a tennis ball in each hand. The catching athlete stands directly opposite. The dropping athlete is free to choose which ball to drop.

Double Bounce

Allowing the ball to bounce twice before it has to be caught means that athletes can sprint and catch over a greater distance.

Real World Example

There is a group of ten athletes and the session is taking place in a sports hall.

The athletes are grouped into pairs and spread out across as wide an area as possible.

After two minutes of practice athletes are instructed to swap roles and play for another two minutes.

Several iterations of the game are played with the following minor modifications:

  • The ball must be caught with the non-dominant hand
  • The catching athletes must start from an upright standing position
  • The catching athletes must try to catch the ball with one eye closed
  • The left or right variation is played

Play finishes with competition


Ensure plenty of room for each pair of athletes. Remember that room will be needed to decelerate and that tennis balls are likely to be flying about everywhere.

Remember to warm up before your session and cool down afterwards. Continual accelerations and lunging for balls can be demanding.