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Consistent work brings success

In working with young tennis players some issues often remain unanswered, and the main reason is mostly due to neglecting the effect of developmental characteristics of the youth in development.

Junior tennis

Parents and coaches sometimes ask how is it possible that a child: (for an example) ... in addition to playing tennis and basketball, not growing enough in height,… my player 11 years of age exercises power, but I see no changes ... daughter practices the same way as the best professional players but not able to win in a tournament, .. player trains hard every day, but I notice the stagnation in the development.. and so on. Recent examples of topics about which we speak was seen at The Australian Open, where the two semi-finalists in the men's and women's singles, Serena Williams and Andy Roddick were guests at ESPN sports studio. They were discussing various topics of tennis game and had the opportunity to reminiscent of their junior days which they spent practicing at the same tennis academy. They both said that Serena at that time was easily winning against her practice partner who was one of the most talented American youth. Roddick’s offer to play now again against him and see how things would be taking place, Serena Williams responded with a smile, that her chances of winning today against him practically wouldn’t exist.

Girl on tennis court

Simple answers to these and similar "puzzles" and dilemmas in the way of development of young players, lie in knowledge of basic biological principles. Those principles are an integral part during the childhood stage, puberty, and the period after puberty, which help us understand the developmental differences between boys and girls.

Kids playing tennis

Characteristics of working with children age 6-8 years

In the early period (7 years of age) the child is developing its own imagination, at the same time having fun with friends, through the effortless physical activities with simple requirements. The main task for beginners in tennis is to do as many different movements as possible. Less important is for those movements to be performed perfectly correctly and completely. Exercise should be implemented in the form of a game. Equipment that is used should be accommodated for a young (small) player. Kids’ lighter rackets, sponge balls, lower nets, smaller size fields, will contribute the child to avoid the discomfort that accompanies the beginning of the tennis game and to continue the love of it. Studies suggest that the period between the sixth and seventh year, is the age at which the largest number of top players became involved with tennis. Relation between the number of organized training and matches is on the side of the practice, so that the number of 20 matches played per year can be considered sufficient for this age group.

Boy on tennis court

Characteristics of work with the age of 9-11 years

This age is characterized by harmonious body development, greater speed and agility, and observes the behavior and more efficient movements. Children now are trying harder in the game to use previously learned basic movements. Doing so is raising the desire for greater success. Demonstrating better memory and concentration enables them to work easier on the technique of tennis and to improve the accuracy of basic strokes as well. The inability to develop force is a characteristic for this age, so it is recommended to work on improving the level of other physical qualities: balance, coordination, quick reactions, speed, at the same time using different exercises: jumps, throws, catching. It is recommended that the child along with the tennis practices plays other sports such as soccer, basketball, cycling, skating, etc.. Practicing the strokes and the basic game still dominate the tournament play and the optimum number of matches played is about 40.

Junior tennis

The characteristics of work with age before and during puberty

Visual changes in the physical and mental development of players are still evident, so that accelerated growth in height leads to stretching of tubular bones with muscles, so that most children get the "lean and elongated" look. Changes in body structure can affect the function of internal glands. Care must be taken to heart muscle which grows due to higher loads, since the heart has to drop more blood into the tissues, leading to an increase blood pressure, because the development of blood vessels is behind the development of the heart. Due to increased activity of internal gland secretion noticeable is higher sensitivity and irritability in young players. We can also observe the difference in development between boys and girls. The girls who have a monthly cycle should be careful when training and must be choosing low intensity exercise. They certainly do not need to practice long running, exercises for the abdominal muscles and the pelvic girdle. Reasonable exercise in those days for girls will adjust so that these problems in later life and sport will be reduced to a minimum. Due to different entry points of puberty noticeable are big physical differences in children of the same age (biological and chronological age), which is very important information for coaches and parents in quality assessment and forecast of further careers of young players (Williams and Roddick). During puberty work on improving the physical qualities expands to strength and endurance. It is important to continue exercise to improve coordination (which has been compromised because of sudden growth) and stretching exercises before and after training are recommended. The player should be practicing technical elements of strokes, and be able to use the spin, slice as well as technically correct reliable second service. Through the process of training and competition in this period is necessary to develop player’s independence in decision-making on the court. Number of matches played ranges between 60 and 80 annually.

Kid on tennis court

Performance characteristics with age after puberty

The age after puberty, until the beginning of the player eventual professional tennis career, or doing other forms of high level of tennis (college tennis, etc...) is characterized by the ability to get through the training process to develop the maximum ability in the field of speed, power, and endurance. Technically, the young player in this age should have technically perfect strokes, hitting the ball with a lot of power, thereby maintaining a high degree of shot control.

Boy on tennis court

Ability to build and control points, and implementation and change of tactics during the match is obvious. The player is largely self-contained, has determined degree of self-discipline, high motivation, and nothing is left to chance. Everything should be well planned in advance for the achievement of his career and professionally he should be assisted by an entire team of trainers, fitness experts, possibly a psychologist, nutritionist, and so on. In tennis, we know that girls are on average two years earlier “ready” than boys, to make transition from juniors and to turn a pro player. In this period also the relation between training and playing matches changes. Players enter more tournaments and play more official matches, but this number of matches shouldn’t exceed more than 90 in a competition year.

Boy with a ball

With all that is mentioned above, it would be very important not to forget the importance of rest for players of all ages. Many experts point out that the rest period is as equally important, as the period of training and competition. It is therefore advisable to allow tennis players of all ages a day or two to rest (depending on previous effort and competition) during each week, without fear that it will interfere with their development and progress. On the contrary, this will allow them to recover their tired body, help to build tissue (the growth and development), prevent possible injuries, increase the desire to continue training and competition, and thus extend the active player competitive career.

Sveto Matovic

Kids on tennis court