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If you’re looking to improve your tennis game, a tennis ball machine is one of the best ways to do it, aside from working with a professional coach or trainer.
These machines, even if they’re small, help you work on the basics while improving your accuracy, consistency and power.
A tennis ball machine helps build muscle memory because of the repetition that’s available to you; after all, a machine doesn’t wear out quite as easily as another human being would.
As long as you’re practicing with the proper form, a tennis ball machine can provide lots of value in improving your game.
Naturally, there are ball machines for every player’s skill level and needs. Generally, smaller tennis ball machines have a few less features, but a great for the basics.
Whether you’re a beginner or advanced player, there’s value in brushing up on your form. That being said, we’ll be diving into more details about the best small tennis ball machine for you.
Benefits of a small tennis ball machine
The first question you might be wondering is, “Why would I choose a smaller tennis ball machine?” To be honest, there are quite a few answers to this question.
The first is that you aren’t giving up a whole lot by choosing a smaller size. You’re still able to train on your own, change settings with speed, and even have some flexibility with your options.
You might not have some of the fancier options that are included in the larger models, but you’ll have what you need.
The next has to do with portability. After all, if you’re someone who practices at a tennis club or has to travel a bit to train, you’ll be toting around this ball machine with you.
It’s not a bad idea to look for smaller, lightweight options that can make moving the machine around easier.
Not only will you be moving it from car to the court, you’ll also be moving it around on the court to change up your training.
You exert enough energy while you train; using additional energy to move a huge tennis ball machine around would take away from your practice.
Naturally, with any tennis ball machine, it can’t replace true training with a coach or teammate. However, it’s a great supplement to training that already exists.
As mentioned above, the more your practice what you’re taught in a lesson, the better your form and game play will be; repetition to build on muscle memory is key.
Drawbacks of a small tennis ball machine
There are a few drawbacks to consider, though. While you don’t lose out on many basic features of a tennis ball machine, you do miss out on some extra fancy ones.
Some machines offer apps you can download to control your machine. Others offer more movement to mimic an actual match or come pre-programmed with drills.
As long as you’re not looking for something beyond the basics for your needs, you likely won’t miss these features.
If you’re hoping for an ultra complex drill or customizable drill options to make training more lifelike, it might be better to opt for a bigger machine with more features, though.
The other drawback is that when the size is smaller, two things happen. The first is that the machine can hold fewer balls for your training session.
Most of the time this isn’t a huge deal, as there are breaks in matches similar to the breaks you would take to reload your machine.
However, this could be a con for some people. The second is that if your machine is too small or too lightweight, it loses stability.
Your machine will be launching balls out ever 2-10 seconds on average. If it doesn’t have enough weight to counteract the propulsion, it can become unstable.
This is why it’s a good idea to ensure your smaller machine has a little bit of weight to it to keep it sturdy.
What to look for in a small tennis ball machine for practice
Based off of the above, here are a few things to look for in a small tennis ball machine to ensure its performance meets your expectations:
- Durability – ensure the weight, material and size can hold up against the force the machine deals out with each ball. The general rule is that if it’s around 30-40 pounds, it should be heavy enough to withstand the balls being tossed without becoming unstable.
- Ball Capacity – you’ll likely lose out on a ball machine that can carry 200 plus balls, but you can still find machines that can hold 80-150. Look for these if you’re someone who has longer training sessions
- Size – you’ll be carrying this tennis ball machine to and from practice and across the court to position. It’s important to find a machine that isn’t a pain to move about. Look at the weight, size and shape of the machine to know if it’ll be easy or difficult to move. This will also likely be stored somewhere on your property; it’s best to store indoors so ensuring you have a big enough space for it is important as well. It may seem simple and obvious, but it’s worth mentioning.
- Wheels – even though it’s a smaller machine, wheels can only help (not hurt) the mobility of your machine. Consider finding a machine with some kind of wheel option to make toting it across various terrains easier.
Additional factors you may want to consider can include:
When considering usage, it’s important to consider where the machine will be placed most often. Will outlets be available? Will you play indoors or outdoors?
Most indoor courts have options for outlets, but outdoor courts can be trickier. For courts where outlets aren’t available, consider a battery-operated machine.
These machines can last about 2-4 hours, which still leaves plenty of time to train. Most smaller machines will likely be batter operated, as they don’t require as much power to keep them going.
When purchasing a smaller tennis ball machine, it’s important to think about the speed of the balls being launched. Minimum speeds start around 10-20 miles per hour.
You’ll reach your maximum speed sooner than you would on a bigger machine usually, but a beginner would likely need no more than 60mph.
Consider how you plan to use the machine and match the speed accordingly. For example, if you want to practice your form, slower might be better.
But if you’re seeking to gain consistency or improve reflexes during rallies, faster might be more appropriate.
Keep your skill level in mind as well, as a machine that goes too fast or too slow for you won’t do you much good.
For beginners, and for those looking at smaller machines, this feature might not be a huge consideration, but it’s worth mentioning. Some machines offer options to feed the balls in different directions.
Simpler and smaller machines offer simply horizontal or random horizontal movement, but there are others that offer both random horizontal and vertical movement.
This consideration is most important when determining how you’d like to practice for matches and less about perfecting form.
If you plan on practicing on your own, you might consider a machine that comes with a remote control.
Otherwise, you’ll be powering on a tennis ball machine on one side of the court, and running quickly to the opposite end to hit the incoming ball.
To be fair, there is a delay before the ball is launched, but it’d be much easier to use a remote.
Even though handhelds would fall into the smaller category, they’re not recommended for training. The machine you’re likely searching for is to help supplement practice when your trainer, teammates or friends are unavailable to train with you.
Because of this, you’ll want to avoid any handheld tennis ball machines. Even if you had someone to help, these are the least stable of the machines and aren’t recommended for this usage.
They may be less expensive than the more solid machines, but won’t fill the need for what you’re looking for.
If anything, these types of machines are often used for dog owners – and that’s definitely not our objective here.
Best Small Tennis Ball Machine
There are a number of smaller tennis ball machine options that may work well for your tennis training needs. The following options may be a good place from which to begin your search.
Always consult an industry professional before using any new product or equipment.
Lobster Sports – Elite Liberty Tennis Ball Machine – Smaller Battery Operated – Lightweight – Full-Featured Tennis Ball Hopper – Random Oscillation – Battery Charger Included – Optional Accessories
This machine is ranked one of the top small tennis ball machines for beginners.
It offers several benefits, including:
- Weight (35 lbs)
- Ability to be stored easily
- Battery Operated (perfect for outdoor use) and lasts 2-4 hours
- Ability to Feed 150 Balls
- Speed Range (20-80mph)
- Spin Features (Topspin & Backspin)
- Feed Interval (2-12 seconds)
- Movement (Random Horizontal)
- Optional Remote Control (for added fee)
This is a great small tennis ball machine; if you’re looking for a machine that allows for some growth, this is a perfect place to start. The speed range offers plenty of flexibility.
Whether you want to slow things down and practice form or speed things up to simulate a match, this machine has plenty of options despite its size.
It’s fairly lightweight at 35 pounds, which makes it easy to transport and store while still providing enough stability to give the power it needs feed the balls appropriately.
It also offers a couple of options for spin features and machine movement, which is perfect for practicing rallies. Feeding 150 balls at a time, you shouldn’t have to stop and start much while practicing at all.
If you’re interested, this model even offers a remote control option for an additional fee.
The one con is that it seems to have a longer recharging time than other models (12-15 hours for a full battery) – so be sure to keep that in mind when you consider how frequently you plan to use it.
View at Amazon to learn more about how this product may work for your training needs.
Spinshot Pro Tennis Ball Machine
The Spinshot Tennis Ball Machine is another great alternative for beginners looking to improve their game and add to their training.
A few beneficial features are that it is:
- Battery Operated
- Lightweight, yet sturdy (44 lbs)
- Flexible with Speed Range (18 – 68 mph)
- Able to Feed 120 Balls
- Able to Move (Random Horizontal)
- Easy to Store
- Able to Throw Topspin and Backspin
- Able to Feed balls ever 2-10 seconds
- Offers remote control for easier use
For its size, this machine packs a lot of great features into a smaller machine. This model offers a lot of similarities to the Lobster option, but has a few additional perks and a few drawbacks as well.
Like the Lobster, it’s perfect for beginners who are looking to improve their swing, consistency or form and also has enough features to simulate a match.
It’s heavier than the Lobster at 44 pounds and launches balls 8mph faster. Its recharge time is a little faster at only 8-12 hours for a full battery, which is perfect for an overnight charge. It also offers a remote control, but without the additional fee.
The only drawbacks are that it feeds fewer balls than the Lobster model and it lacks exact numbers to the set speed controls and feed intervals.
They’re not huge issues, but if you prefer to use exact specifications, you might find the Spinshot’s setting options a little lacking.
View at Amazon for more information on how this ball machine may work for your training needs.
Featured image credit: DepositPhotos.com @luckybusiness