This post is part of our Player Development Program.
Post Audience: All age groups
Life in tennis starts at an early age, perhaps too early. In countries where sport is approached with more science and data behind it the children are given various activities, as part of their introduction to the game. In India, the approach is still rudimentary and outdated to an extent.
DEVELOPING MOTOR SKILLS
It might seem trivial, or even boring, but developing motor skills of catching a ball, running with a ball, throwing a ball, bouncing a ball are some of the fundamentals of this sport.
The child needs to develop a sense of reaction, stop and go movements, side to side, side to front, front to back, diagonal movement, hand and eye co-ordination among many other such skills that should be developed early on.
You can teach basic motor skills, at least for tennis specific movements and play, all the way up to age 16 or 18, even if you have never done them before. After those years have passed the effectiveness of a drill starts to decrease. Why is that?
It’s simple, the body and mind have not been conditioned to understand the fine intricacies of movement that involve a higher sense of dexterity. This must be taught at an early age via drills, or simply allowing a child to experience normal everyday play. But if your child is only training in tennis class, and having one P.E period in school…they are simply not getting enough time to experience that.
Motor-skill learning might be especially influenced by preconditions such as endurance, strength, or other motor abilities such as posture. For example, learning of the high jump is mainly influenced by strength (particularly bounce) and learning of fine motor skills by hand–eye coordination. – Excerpt from BioMedCentral
For instance, a player may want to learn a specific foot work pattern to recover faster, or to position themselves for a certain shot or to even make contact on a particular side of the ball. If they don’t have a basic understanding of how the elements of bounce, spin, depth etc…have an impact on what they want to achieve, they will simply not be able to learn.
This translates into a weakness, which will be easy for an opponent to use against you.
In tennis, a good training program will always include motor developmental drills all the way up to age 18, and beyond. Even the pros always tune their senses before they go on the court for a match or practice.
Our findings are in good agreement with everyday life experience showing that an early (~ before 12 years) start of learning some sports, music instruments, second language, etc. often leads to higher level of competence. – The Best Time to Acquire New Skills
TRAIN LESS, PLAY MORE
After all, this is a game. A game with points and strategy. So start thinking about it as such.
Why did you win a particular point? Why did you lose a particular point? Has your training been working, or have you been only showing up for training and not really learning?
Playing a game the way it’s meant to be played will make you better at it than just countless hours, days, weeks and months of training. While matches and tournaments do help you get the required experience it’s perhaps not the best constant medium to use.
Teaming up with your fellow players and having a practice match, or two, without worrying about the outcome can do wonders to help you understand how you are actually playing. Take it one step further and make it goal oriented. For example, how many forehand winners did you hit versus backhand winners? Adding a challenge will make playing the game interesting and engage you further.
Even a 1% improvement in your game play per day adds up to roughly 20% over the course of a month!
Children from the age of 6 to 11 shouldn’t do more than 3 – 4 days a week of tennis, training for not more than 1.5 hours. Followed up by another sport for 2 days, again for not more than 1.5 hours per day. Young bodies do not need 2 or 3 hours of the same workout for 5 or 6 days.
This is the perfect recipe for injury once the player comes to a higher age bracket of 14 to 18.
Not only will they find themselves lacking in fundamentals, but also not have the required skill set to play the sport at higher levels.
Sports like Basketball, Football, Table Tennis, Swimming, Tae Kwon Do are some great additions to a training regimen.
Until the age of 12 a player should have at least 2 full days off per week. Taking a longer period of rest once every 3 months is also recommended, to assist in rehabilitation of the full body. After the age of 12, they can start increasing their training load and add endurance, strength, core and power building workouts. By the time they are 14, their bodies should be able to adapt to a faster game and not let fatigue be a hindrance.
Probably the most important part of a training program is the recovery and rehabilitation. Our bodies need time to heal and must be given the right type of stimulus to recover.
The best tool one can have to recover is a foam roller. It helps in massaging every major and minor muscle group in any part of your body.
There are various exercises you can do with a foam roller, we will share a video later to show you the best methods to help your body recover faster with it.
Some pros swear by yoga as a way to help them get their body back into training mode again, it may have its uses in a few areas but shouldn’t be over done. Slow swimming and massages are helpful, along with cold and hot pack treatments depending on the muscle groups and type of injury or fatigue you are addressing.
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