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Competitive Tennis for Young Players
The road to becoming a top player
 

 

Training to train – the new conditioning

A method of developing the young players into adult champions. Using research and studies into biological development, training science and learning process psychology.The system enhanced the development of general physical performance, largely dependent upon age and help improve the individual talent and inborn abilities.First there was competition; then there was training for competition; then there was conditioning for training for competition; and now, it seems, we have pre-conditioning – a kind of continuous background activity designed to keep an athlete in prime training condition all year round, according to John Shepherd.

Unlike most training activities, pre-conditioning is not obsessively focused on performance enhancement. Rather, it is about analysing and understanding an athlete’s physical limitations with a view to correcting and compensating for weaknesses and imbalances and, crucially, keeping injury at bay.

In a competitive world where victories are measured in ever-shrinking gaps between top-class performers, such tactics are becoming increasingly important. Here is some of Shepherd’s general pre-conditioning advice, which can be used by coaches working with athletes from many disciplines:

• Use ‘home-grown’ tests – e.g. one-repetition weight training maximums and/or plyometric (jumping) bests – to determine muscular weaknesses and imbalances;
• Develop a repertoire of relevant pre-conditioning exercises – e.g. eccentric calf raise and cable external shoulder rotation – and know when to use them;
• Establish norms for required sport specific range of movement – insufficiency of which could lead to injury;
• Analyse sporting technique with an emphasis on detecting muscular imbalance, which can be counteracted by specific training;
• Check for potential injury on an ongoing basis using self-diagnostic ‘trigger point’ tests;
• Use eccentric training to improve the ‘elastic’ properties of muscles.
Orthotics – when conventional treatment fails

Understanding how individual biomechanics impact on sport performance is a crucial aspect of successful pre-conditioning. And biomechanical faults are the key focus of chiropractor Cherye Roche’s article. In the previous issue, Roche homed in on the basic anatomical and biomechanical dysfunctions that can lead to overuse injuries in the joints, and specifically at the role of faulty foot mechanics. This time she goes on to consider a range of treatment regimes for such injuries, focusing particularly on orthotic therapy.
With a wide variety of practitioners – including podiatrists, physios, osteopaths and sports therapists - using orthotic therapy, each employing a range of diagnostic and prescriptive systems to prescribe orthotics made with varying degrees of sophistication from differing materials, it is a case of ‘buyer beware’.

Cherye Roche’s most crucial advice is to select a practitioner with specialised training, working in a practice which has a history of providing quality care, including regular orthotic therapy, to the local sporting community.

As long as you adopt such a cautious approach, orthotics can offer a ‘final solution’ to many common injuries, particularly the following:

• Plantar fasciitis (foot arch pain);
• Medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints);
• Patello-femoral tracking syndrome (runner’s knee);
• Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS, or lateral knee tendinitis);
• Sacroiliac joint syndrome (sacroiliitis, or sciatica);
• Lumbar facet syndrome (low back pain).

Long Term Performance Development in Tennis

Step-by-step performance development and important training principles.

Only through the knowledge of biological growth and as a result, the development of different methods of training at different age levels, is it possible to lay down a long-term successful performance development plan.

This development extends over a period of 15-18 years, from 5-7 year-old beginners up to individual top-class performance, which lies around the age 22-25 with male tennis players (somewhat earlier by women). From a beginner up to a successful professional male or female player one has to calculate a time-span of approx. 8-10 years with girls and approx. 11-13 years for boys. Exceptions are the rule, when some young players reach the peak earlier than others.

Only those, however, who have been meticulously trained in all areas, will be successful for a longer period of time. The destiny of most players is to drop out of the game. (The reasons will be discussed later).

Those who have reached the peak very early should not be seen as a model for others. In each generation there are a few exceptions worldwide. It is possible to subdivide the long-term performance development into the levels shown here:

Table: Steps of a long-term performance development

Training Level

Versatile basic training
Basic training
Development training 1
Development training 2
Connecting training
Top-class competitive training Age

Approx. 4-7
Approx. 6-10
Approx. 9 - 13
Approx. 11-15
Approx. 14-18
From approx. 16-19

Training Principles

There are to be seen as guidelines for the performance development during childhood and adolescence. Precisely expressed, training principles are based upon knowledge pertaining to sports science and upon experience from coaches and experts.

They are general guidelines for the controlling (planning and execution) of training. Before any planning and implementation of training begins, a so-called guiding principle should be considered.

Principle of development and health promotion

This states that an athletic training at no time should hamper the physical, mental and/or motor development, but rather promotes and takes into consideration the factor general health through the responsible avoidance or the best possible reduction of risks. With the help of fitness training, a wide basis of physical motor performance ability and resistance load capacity can be achieved.

On this basis, an increasingly specialized and performance-oriented training can be carried out. It is very important that the individual’s developmental age should be taken into account.

This table gives an overall view of the training principles within individual training levels.

Table: Training steps and the application of training principles according to the age.

Training levels
Basic training
6/7 – 9/10 years

Development training 1
9/10 -11/13 years

Development training 2
11/13-14/15 years

Connecting training
Approx. 14-16/18 years

Top-class competitive training from approx. 16/19 years

• Principles of effective motor stimulus
• Principle of the optimal ratio of load and relation
• Principle of variations
• Principle of age suitability

In addition:
• Principle of repetition and continuity
• Principle of priority and purposeful coordination

In addition:
• Principle of load increase
• Principle of dividing into periods/cycles

In addition:
• Principle of individuality
• Principle of the regulating interaction of individual training elements

In addition:
• Principle of cyclical regeneration

Training Principles of Basic Training for 6-10 years-old.

Principle of the effective motor stimulus

This principle states that training stimulus stages through which, regarding functional and morphological changes of adaptations, subliminal (= under the effective threshold), supraliminal weak, supraliminal strong and too strong stimuli are differentiated. Subliminal stimuli remain ineffective, supraliminal weak ones maintain the functional level while supraliminal strong ones (= optimal) cause physiological and anatomical changes. Stimuli that are too strong, harm the functions.

Principle of the optimal ratio of workload and relaxation

This principle takes into consideration the fact, that after an effective training load (training unit) a certain time is necessary for the individual to recreate himself in order to carry out a new similar load (next training unit) under favorable conditions. Load and relaxation should be viewed as a whole. The biological result is the phenomenon of super-compensation, through which, through the application of a strong load stimulus not only a compensation or re-establishment of the starting level occurs but an overcompensation of the demanded energy storage (creatine phosphate, glycogen) appears. The increased level does not survive through a one-time load but recedes. On the other hand, it is the phenomenon of the connection between performance ability and fatigue (= two factor theory), which means precisely that after a training load, a rise in fatigue takes place with a simultaneous rise in performance.

Principle of the variation of training load

Within the framework of an effective training load, the role of the sympathetic vegetative nerve system must not be overlooked. The sympathetic nervous system sets the body into a state of readiness for high performance, which is a necessary prerequisite for effective training loads. Through continuous similar stimulation, the sympathetic nervous system is subject to the stimulus stage rule and a decrease of its ergotrope (performance increase) effect takes place. Similar training stimuli over a longer period lead to a stagnation and concomitant fall off in previous stage of stimulation. This variation must relate within the practical sphere of training, not only to changes in intensity but above all to a change in training contents, dynamics of movement, the organizing of breaks, in other words, training methods. They constitute an interruption of the load monotony within the vegetative nervous system and cause, as unusual motor stimuli, additional homeostasis interruptions with subsequent adaptations.

Principle of age suitability

Meaningful performance development can only adjust itself according to biological age (above all the so-called “sensitive phase”) and the individual biological circumstances. Physical conditioning, psychosocial and coordination-technical abilities and skills can only receive optimal promotion in this context.

The additional principles of development training (1) of 9 to 13 years-old

Principle of repetition and performance continuity

To reach an optimal adaptation it is necessary to repeat the load several times in order to achieve stable adaptation, because the organism has to run through a series of radical changes to its functional systems. The final adaptation is reached when not only the enrichment of substrates (= high energy materials) but also adaptations in other functional systems (e.g. enzyme system, hormone system) took place and, above all, that the central nervous system as the leading stage of load performance has adapted itself. It is well known that the metabolic and enzymatic adaptation proceedings are carried out relatively fast (2-3 weeks). Structural (morphological) changes take longer (at least 4-6 weeks).

The steering and regulating structures of the central nervous system need the longest period of adaptation (months). If regular and continuous load stimuli fail to appear, a retrogression of functional and morphological adaptations take place (de-adaptation). By already executed adaptation, stability loss of control and regulating system occurs.

Principle of priority and purposeful coordination

In tennis (as in all other sports) the concern is with the priority of individual abilities, either conditional or coordinative. With training it is possible to achieve the dynamic stereotype (goal oriented coordination).

It is however possible to differentiate between the following:
If the priority of a single conditioned factor or ability is necessary (e.g. in tennis, speed strength) it may be necessary to pay attention to the performance control process and supporting abilities to ensure that the development of priority abilities are not neglected (refer to principle of regulating interaction). In tennis these supporting abilities are speed strength, reaction time, flexibility and aerobic endurance (in the sense that the better the regenerative ability and additional increased trainability of the muscles). The trainability of prior conditioned factors demands a broad general basis in tennis and the corresponding (biological) motoric (and psycho-cognitive) developmental position. If the priority of certain coordinative abilities and/or individual technical motor processes is necessary, then it has to be considered that within a performance control process, all complementary abilities and exercises are to be seen in connection with the prior element.

If, consequently, individual conditioned and/or coordination elements are improved, they must be immediately integrated into the real time a defence structure of the movement to be worked upon. This happens through numerous repetitions of the whole movement, at first with a mean required and/or somewhat reduced velocity, gradually building up to a correct simulation of the shot, as it would be played in a match.

This is achieved by following the steps as outlined below:

• The use of partial elements with immediate integration into the overall movement, whereby the latter is always the most important element in the coaching scenario, or
• Through the complex training of conditioned and coordination factors.

The additional principles of development training (2) of 11-15-years-old

Principle of progressive load increase

When training loads remain equal over a long period of time, the player adapts to them and therefore the same load stimuli ceases to become less effective and as a result there will little likelihood of an increase in performance. The consequences of a progressive increase of the training load over a certain period of time may be twofold.

1. The increase may occur gradually or suddenly depending upon the player’s biological age, training age and the level of his sport specific skills. The increase in small steps (gradually) always makes sense as long as by using this method an increase in performance is usually achieved. However, if a slight rise of the training load doesn’t achieve improved performance then a sudden load increase may be necessary at high training level.
2. The increase may occur in sudden jumps in training load and intensity (increased possibility of injury, performance instability). If using this method while great care must be taken to avoid injury etc. the possible discomfort for the player must be discounted. It is generally accepted that a substantial and abrupt increase in demands forces the organism to further adaptations, and therefore requires that the player should already have successful performance profile.

Compared to a development in small steps longer periods of time are necessary to reach stability within an increased adaptive training situation. The possibilities of progressive load increase are given through a change of the load components, through higher coordination training and through the number of competitions the player is required to play in.

On a long-term basis, the changes of the load components are usually presented in the following order:

• Increased training frequency (training units per week).
• Increased training load within the training unit,
• Shortened breaks and increased training intensity.

The principle of dividing into periods and cycles

An athlete cannot be in top-class competitive form all year long because he finds himself at the borderline of his particular capacity. This is dangerous, because the anabolic (= restorative metabolic process) total can change into a catabolic one i.e. dissimilation. For biological reasons a load change is necessary. The phase character of the course of adaptation with intensity, stabilization and reduction phase, demands long-term, after division of the training year into developing, stabilizing and reducing load periods (preparatory, competitive, transition period) and medium-term, in the frame of mesocycles, a change of load increasing, load containing and load-reducing micro-cycles. Thereby on the one hand, over demanding load can be avoided and on the other hand a higher peak of performance can be reached at certain times.


The additional principles involved in top-class training of 14-25 years old

The principle of individuality

For an optimal performance development, starting at approx. the age of 12-14, the personal situations of the players have to be given the coach’s full attention. This in particular pertains to the various genetic components such as technical abilities, motor learning, plus physical make up, type of temperament, character, intellect, trainability, etc., in addition to more environmentally influenced components like motivation, resolution and others.

The principle of the regulating interaction between individual training elements.

What is discussed in this section here is the measured coordination of physical training and training technique. This is an important basis for the development to an individual top-class performance athlete, since different training elements can influence the outcome in a positive or negative manner. Physical training, in the area of top-class sports is to be seen mainly in relation to sport specific technique training. Therefore, it also seems appropriate to consider principles of technique training during the planning of the type of loads to be applied and the implementation of fitness training. Experienced and successful trainers state ten basic and proven practical rules, of which two are commented on here:

The principle of complexity

In the area of top sports a combined specific training must be predominant, often with simultaneous technical, tactical and conditioning goals. The necessary performance requirements must be stimulated in such a way as to be very close to technique and such manner that learned pattern of movement can be recalled under the highest demands of competition. This means that both coaches and players need a great deal of experience and intuitive feelings to successfully achieve this.

The principle of quality and precision

Since top class performance in tennis is combined with a very high quality of realization, players also have to get used to this precision pressure during training. This can be achieved, for example, through matches and training competition.

The principle of cyclic regeneration

Assuming that performance control was optimally completed experience tells us that the high level performance life in tennis from beginner to the top-class player lasts 8-15 years. If the players reached international level, this has to be grooved in through extreme training and competitive loads, it is therefore quite normal that after 2-6 years small performance losses occur, this despite an increased training. The causes of this situation are still not fully understood. Attempts to explain this problem, which relate to so-called “coordination barriers”, technique stagnations, over-training of the different human systems (central nervous system, vegetative system, muscular system etc.) and stagnation, are but some of the reasons. Furthermore, next to these possible physiological causes, mental signs of fatigue (training and competitive weariness, no “bite”) can also appear or be the actual cause.

A recipe used by many world-class athletes to overcome such a phase is to take time to regenerate. Olympic champions like Lasse Viren (5k & 10k) , Alexander Pusch (fencing), Rolf Milser (weightlifting), many world-class tennis players like McEnroe, Wilander etc have all taken 6-12 months breaks from competition after producing top-class performance over 3-5 years and have severely reduced their training intensity, concentrating more on regenerating measures. In the time following, these athletes have again shown (and partially even increased) absolute top-class performance.

Further to this there will be an explanation put forward to cover in grater detail the individual steps involved in long-term performance development, and to this end the following will be covered.

• General suggestions ( and special aspects)
• Training goals and contents
• Training plans
• Tournament advice
• Number of matches per year
• Yearly plan

Step 1: Versatile Basic Training (Approx: 4-7 years old)

General References

Children at this age achieve their first motor combinations that are predominately quantitative with less qualitative movement and with frequent unnecessary movements. They experience rapid increase in fast movements, speed and in terms of coordination as well as aerobic endurance. The leg muscles are well developed in contrast to those of the torso, the shoulder and arms. With regard to young children of this age it is not appropriate to use the term “training”. Children should be given age-suitable and versatile motor training which has a very high level of play involved.

For this reason, the following motor forms are suggested as being appropriate:

• Motivated exercising
• Exercise that can be done individually or in small groups,
• Where no large organizational measures are needed
• That are inexpensive
• Which pose no great demand upon training equipment

Regarding concentration, children of this age can’t sustain long training sessions. For this reason the program has to change continuously, be diverse and encompass the whole body. It is very important to give the children a fair degree of choice in what they do and one cardinal rule is to accept the wishes and initiatives of the children !

Training goals and contents

• In any training regime for the young children versatile general basic training with non-specific and varied ways of playing and complex motor forms around all body axes should take pride of place.
• The contents may be: children’s gymnastics, judo, wrestling, ice-skating, different small ball games, throwing, catching etc.
• Within the specific area of tennis, gradual and careful introduction for the children to the technical basics of simple strokes with accompanying material should take place. In this context the term strokes does not mean stroke technique per se but rather the ball and racket control exercises including various coordination activities. The end of this period marks the possibility of slowly beginning with the introduction of actual tennis technique through playing short and mini-tennis.


A proposed training plan

The hours of exercise must be well planned: a regular training plan, however, does not exist at this age because fun, enjoyment and improvising should always be the main ingredients.

• The percentage portion of tennis-specific training should be no higher than 30% of the total exercising time. Basic training is of prime importance. Tennis or tennis-similar exercises are merely a part of the total program.
• Training frequency per week: 2-3 times

Step 2: Basic Training (Approx. 6-10 years old)

General References

This age constitutes a phase of harmonious growth and physical differentiation in which above all, rapid progression in learning ability, in the development of coordination, reaction time and speed, of movement and aerobic capacity, are all seen. The ability to concentrate over long period of time as well as performance directed motor abilities are yet strictly limited.

Now, tennis specific training can begin. This does not mean that from now on, only, or to a major part, tennis is played! Completely the opposite is true! Again the term “basic training” points to the major content of this stage.

In this, as well as in the next phase of development (step 3), is known as the best motoric learning age, the actual basics must be established for later, performance-oriented tennis. Therefore, continuing general training, with increasing intensity, exist in the foreground on the one side, and on the other side emphasis must be laid on the quality of stroke production. It is important that what is learned now doesn’t have to be changed in a toilsome and time consuming manner in the future. Having an eye on the quality of tennis techniques also means looking at running, jumping throwing technique and other motor processes, which are important to performance tennis.

Training goals and contents

Three main goals are paramount during this phase:
• The learning of basic tennis-specific techniques (on the basis of favourable growth of the brain of approx. 90% of its mature size)
• Schooling of reaction and frequency speed (which are also dependent upon the central nervous system) and the
• Versatile training of the motor system with the main emphasis upon the coordination abilities (such as equilibrium, differentiating ability, rhythm etc,;)
• Training contents should relate to sport-specific techniques in tennis, especially general and specific game and motor techniques, which train the perspective and anticipating abilities, as well as equilibrium, leg work, and the feel of the ball
• Please note! The schooling of tennis techniques is at this stage only one part of the total training!

A suggested training plan

• Training and tournament plans don’t play a role at this stage yet
• Training units, short and middle-term training goals should, however, be well prepared, especially special programs (such as technique and muscular development).
• Pure tennis training should encompass approx 50% of the total training
• Training frequency per week: 3-5 times

Tournaments

• In the beginning so-called mini-tennis tournaments should be played. Mini-tennis is the best form between the coordinative tennis specific pre-exercising; short tennis is vital in the process of learning the total court technique. Mini-tennis tournaments should not be overrated. It must be fun for the children to compete with an opponent, motivate them, give them the first tactical bases and strengthen their mental capabilities.
• The combined competitions, developed by Richard Schonborn and introduced by the DTB (German Tennis Federation), have proved to be successful. Tennis however, still keeps playing a minor role (under 50% of total time). These competitions should also teach not only motor abilities, but also primarily team spirit.
• Sensible interpretation of tournament results: tournament results should be used to check training results. They should, however, not be overrated, which can be very dangerous.
• During a tournament, stress situations with parents, officials and coaches must be absolutely avoided. The results should be seen down-to-earth and should always be judged positively. The player has to know that he is also allowed to lose. It is not advisable to either under or over demand the players during tournaments.
• Match training: to develop tactics, regular tactical training and match training is necessary.

Step 3: Development training (1) (Approx. 9-13 years old)

General reference and special aspects

This is the time of the best motor learning ability, the most harmonious growth and differentiating process; rapid advancement is shown in inter-muscular coordination, reaction time, movement speed and also partially in speed strength. The maximum strength and anaerobic-lactic capacity are relatively weak.

This step is the first decisive stage for the later performance development. Mistakes that made at this stage can hardly be corrected in the future. Now, a high quality in basic technique has to be strived for. Thereby the final technique is, as yet, not reached but a clear execution of the basic forms. Quality also dominates other exercises (like throwing etc.)

All strokes techniques in their basic form have to be in place before the age of 12. Dependent upon age, slice, the topspin, drive, volley, smash, drop shot, two types of serve etc. should be used in a match. This means that in the second half of this stage the tennis specific elements slowly become more important. This does not mean that general training becomes less important. It only means that because of time constraints the training has to adapt to the specific demands of tennis. This means that more orientation in the direction of specific physical training for tennis has to be considered. Training of coordination as well as physical conditioning has to support and optimize tennis specific work of the trainee on the court.

Please note that the following examples are still unfortunately happening on the ground:
• Children who at this age play almost only tennis. As already mentioned, tennis technique development should be an important part at this stage, but it is only one part.
• Players playing too many tournaments. The tournament programme MUST be adapted to this age.
• The orientation of the coach, parents and officials directed too strongly towards success rather than harmonious development. Having success at this age is nice but unimportant and certainly doesn’t show a direction for the future.

Training goals and contents

Since the brain and the central nervous system have now reached maturity and a harmonious growth situation exists, the following training goals are important:

• A qualitatively high standard technique training of all stroke and motor forms in tennis. Up to the 12th year of age, optimal learning of all techniques must have taken place.
• Next to the development of inter-muscular coordination, an eye also has to be put upon the intra-muscular coordination (i.e. the production of speed strength).
• The so-called time programmes, i.e. reaction time and speed of movement.
• In addition, through increasing technical perfection, training attention is now more orientated towards tactics.
• Training contents are therefore all exercises designed to avoid the previously mentioned problem areas, as well as additional exercises designed to equalize and/or to avoid muscular imbalance. Certainly, considerable accent will still be put upon a general motor skills training.

CAUTION:

On the basis of the given shortages in the maximal strength area (unstable skeletal system) and in the anaerobic-lactic energy availability, no overtaxing (e.g. long rallies) should take place.

Proposed training plan

• A training plan for the whole year, with detailed stages, monthly and weekly plans, will be carried out for the first time (otherwise there will be too much leeway for improvisation).
• Decisive for children within this load increase stage is the correct matching of training- regeneration –tournament –regeneration – training etc. The children have to gradually get used to such biological rhythms.
• Training frequency per week: 4-6 times

Tournaments

• At this age a sensible tournament plan should be set up, which in reality means a limited plan, because children should neither be overloaded nor confronted with difficult tournaments. Taking part in older categories should only be allowed where the child, performance wise has the possibility of a number of victories.
• Tournaments also promote tactical development:
o During tournament matches the tactical varieties from training should be tried out and tactical shortfalls that appear during the tournament play should be worked upon when training.
• Tournaments should enhance motivation, which means children want to measure themselves through matches. Unending training de-motivates children from wanting to do further work.
• During match play, children learn to overcome the various stress factors, which means that during training such things as internal tension, environmental influence and solving of external factors cannot be truly simulated. These can only be learned under tournament conditions.
• Tournament results should not be over-emphasized. It again has to be mentioned that results at this age play a secondary role in regard to a later career. Certainly, a child wants to win and should fight with all his might. A defeat should not be overly emphasized as a tragedy but has to analysed sensibly and considered as a necessary and normal step in the future development.

Recommended number of matches per year

Approx. 40-50 matches, in addition double matches.

At this age doubles should be played regularly. In doubles, numerous details of technique are practiced, which are of great importance for modern singles tennis, for example, the short cross return from both sides and with both kinds of strokes (forehand, backhand), first volley near the T-line through direction reduction etc.

Based on decades of experience the above suggested yearly plan is certainly not set in tablets of stone, but should be seen as a possible model. As mentioned, development and training of most factors has to be continued during the period of competition.

What has to be adhered to are the individual preparatory periods, without taking part in tournaments. Because so many areas are not sufficiently stabilized, young players and their coaches should, at least once a year, have a sufficient long time to build, improve, stabilize or even change, with restrictions eventually resulting (loss of form, performance decrease). Additionally it would be an advantage if approximately twice a year a shorter period of time is available for the same purpose. These preparatory periods automatically change within the next phases and the tournament periods become longer, therefore leaving less time available for necessary changes or adjustments.

The major points of the individual periods as well as the necessary regenerating phases without tennis must be adhered to.

Step 4: Development training (2)
(Approx. 11-15 years old)

General reference and special aspects

It was stated during the previous step that the first decisive leg, so this next step is the first critical one in the development of a young tennis player. Through the start of the first puberty phase and the following physical and mental changes (accelerated growth, sex diverging hormonal changes, restructuring motoric abilities and skills, reduced motoric learning ability etc.) it can lead to setbacks, temporary stagnations, to mental and physical as also to other personal problems.

It is however important to remember that this is not inevitable. By all means, this age is a challenge for every coach because he is confronted, as a rule, for the first time with opposition, contradiction, disciplinary problems, desire to be independent, knowing better etc. the start of hormonal change can lead to gender specific differences as well as to development differences in respect to acceleration and retardation. Thereby on the one hand, performance leaps occur, on the other hand stagnation is possible.

Caution is urged when dealing with successful girls:

They are pressed too fast toward in almost 100% entry into adult and WTA tennis. It is hoped that on the basis of explanations, the great danger of a too rapid entry into professional tennis has been made clear.

It is without question that a combination between the own age category, the older category and partially adult tennis, is to be suggested for very successful girls.

One just has to know where and how the higher tournament load can be justifiable and above all, beneficial. Here, sensibility and experience is asked on the part of the coaches. Must can be destroyed, that has previously shown to be developing well.

Training goals and contents

In spite of the above problems, not only do previously developed abilities and skills have to be further intensified but also new contents have to be taken up, such as the start of a purposeful muscle development and the promotion of aerobic capacity.

• In the second phase of this step, speed strength and endurance training has to be intensified and correct training system must be introduced in the area of work. In other words: increased force development training (general and specific) as well as a balancing of possible muscular imbalance (as a result of increased training matches and participation in tournaments).
• Speed develops more slowly, meaning, on the basis of the described problems, difficulties in the area of speed should be expected. This does not mean that training of these factors should be neglected. The opposite is true. More importantly now seems to be optimal development for the previous steps. Time programs, frequency speed, action speed, reaction speed and speed strength (velocity ability) have to find further emphasis in the training plan.

In the area of technique:

• If technique is systematically developed in the previous steps, all techniques should be available in relative high quality. Now it is necessary to continue to perfect the player’s potential and above all, to bind together the coordination and the conditioned elements, as well as to further increase the complexity in training.
• The application in situ and the chances to achieve success should be increased.
• Tactics training becomes more important through the perfection of technique. At this stage the individual’s conduct should be reviewed.
• At this level, differences have to be made between the sexes. Girls mature faster. Accelerated physical and mental development leads to advantages in the adaptation to training stimuli, whereby technique and conditioning development increases. An eventual increase in weight, through a higher share of fat, slows down this development advantage.

Therefore more attention must be put upon the nutrition in girls and young women. Male adolescents are normally 1-2 years biologically behind girls.

Suggested training plan

• The yearly training plan and its cyclical subdivisions should now be more closely scrutinized. Without detailed planning, up to and including stringent training units, no optimal performance control will be possible.
• Because loads and demands continually increase in training, above all, through a longer tournament season, it is especially important to scrutinize the rest and regeneration processes and measures more closely.
• Approximately two training units per day are necessary at the end of this step because the extent and contents rise and show more variety, so that the regenerating phase would not be sufficient in one training unit. If both phases can be completed in half a day, or if both daily halves are necessary depends upon the player’s time and/or upon training contents.
• Training frequency per week: 4-8 times
• Months of training per year: 8-10.

Tournaments

• Tournaments, in this phase, should still be seen as feedback required to control performance. No pressure to succeed should be exerted. Tournaments should confirm the correctness of training methods, contents, extents, intensities etc. and/or give reasons for change.
• Tournaments quality is determined through the one-third principle; that means the players should basically play 1/3 of all matches against weak opponents, 1/3 against equal opponents and 1/3 against strong opponents. Against weaker opponents they have to prove they can hold these players at a distance. Hereby they learn to defend their position, to overcome the fear of failure, not to underestimate their opponent and to develop self-confidence. Against equal opponents they have to learn how to fight, to overcome the fact of being behind in points, to never give up, to accept a change in form, to change unsuccessful tactics and unsatisfactory external conditions etc. Against strong opponents they can play freely and openly, grow beyond their ability, discover unknown performance abilities, new tactics or may even apply new strokes, stroke speed or new stroke variations. This one-third principle (two victories and then a possible defeat) makes it possible for the player to get into the top 20 ranking in world professional tennis.
• At the end of this step, junior girls can be begin a careful entry into women’s tennis: approximately 1/3 of all tournaments can either played in older categories or women’s categories, approximately 2/3 in one’s own category.
• Participation of juniors in men’s tennis remains an exception, they can, however, participate according to playing in the older youth categories.
• The strongest junior boys and girls can individually take part in international tournaments and team competition, because at this age the youth should get used to the mental pressure which exists in international tournaments and also become acquainted with other opponents, ways of playing and other styles. Team competition is of main importance for the development of team spirit.
• The combination between youth tournaments in one’s own and in a higher category or in the adult category has to be carried out very carefully on an individual basis. As mentioned previously, participation in a higher class of play (especially international) tournaments and/or by adults, depends upon playing strength, physical and mental development position, the perspectives, the goals set and the economic and organizational possibilities. As such a general recommendation cannot be given.
• Generally it is important to reiterate the fact, that match experience can only be achieved by playing matches. If the tournament levels are set too high, however, neither a winning attitude nor a feeling of self-confidence will appear. Furthermore, the player will not gain positive match experience, other than if he plays tournaments continuously (thereby giving up sensible training development) which unfortunately is still often the case, finally leading to the above described negative experience.

Also tactics which are schooled in training, reach a necessary high grade quality only through tournaments.

Suggested number of matches per year

Approximately 60 matches in addition to double matches.

Step 5: Connecting training
(Approx.14-18 years old)

General references

This step is the second decisive leg for the future performance development in tennis, and perhaps the most important one of all. Because it is so decisive it has to completed very successfully. Responsible for this are not only the age level implementing professionally correct training contents, but also the already prescribed systematic long-term development in the previous steps which has to be seen as a prerequisite! The adolescent, as seen from the point of view of his development, can,, on the basis of his gradual pubertal growth, undertake even heavier training loads. All areas can already be included in the training.

This step is also decisive for the development of the player’s individuality, for the perfection of the tactical abilities and for the moral attitudes during a match. For this reason, a strongly increased participation in tournaments is necessary and for the first time, the tournament results play an important role. If up to now, tournament results and positions in the ranking list only served as a form of feedback providing training control which had little meaning from the players perspective, success in tournaments now presents a certain criteria and prerequisite for a successful career. The player now has to be able to successfully apply his long-term achievements in a match.