Movement and skill adaptability: a novel approach to talent identification and development in tennis


Potter, Aaron William (2017) Movement and skill adaptability: a novel approach to talent identification and development in tennis. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


Tennis at the elite level is a sport that is intermittent in nature and requires proficiency across a number of key performance attributes; physical, technical, tactical and psychological (Fernandez-Fernandez, Sanz-Rivas, & Mendez-Villanueva, 2009; Hornery, Farrow, Mujika, & Young, 2007a; Kovacs, 2006, 2007; Unierzyski, 2002). The diverse skill set required for success in tennis poses a problem for practitioners attempting to identify and develop talent at an early age. The current methods of talent identification in tennis are largely based on ranking and tournament results despite reported low success rates (Brouwers, De Bosscher, & Sotiriadou, 2012). These methods represent an evaluation of current performance, often overlooking the capacity for further development, which is essential in any talent identification/development program (Martindale, Collins, & Daubney, 2005). Movement and skill adaptability (used interchangeably with the term adaptability herein) is an individual’s ability to acutely adjust their performance based on the changing constraints within the performance environment (Martin, Nejad, Colmar, & Liem, 2012; Newell, 1986). This definition has merit for use in tennis as optimal performance requires a player must be able to acutely modify their game in relation to the changing stimuli. Adaptability is relevant for talent identification purposes as it is representative of the dynamic, unpredictable nature of the sporting environment. To progress from a theoretical concept, development of adaptability metrics is required combined with evidence of its impact as a training mechanism. Therefore, two novel measures of adaptability; the throwing and rebound task (TRT) and the continuous rebounding task (CRT) were created. Construct and face validity of both tasks was established, as was reliability via a test-retest method. Adaptability explained a higher percentage of tennis performance (assessed via a volley test), when compared to anthropometric, maturation, physical performance and general motor skill variables. This demonstrates the importance of adaptability in junior tennis performance. In contrast to the volley test, coaches’ subjective stroke evaluation reported no significant relationships. Adaptability was compared to a conventional tennis training program, with both groups reporting significant improvement on a number of variables (best TRT, average TRT, sum CRT, KörperKoordinations Test Für Kinder [KTK] and forehand stroke evaluation). Importantly, only the adaptability group improved on a timed, tennis-specific accuracy task and reported higher levels of enjoyment than the conventional tennis training group. These findings provide evidence for potential inclusion of the TRT and CRT into tennis talent identification programs. Additionally, the importance of adaptability as a theoretical construct which can develop junior players has been established. More broadly, the theoretical concepts underpinning adaptability as a testing mechanism (TRT and CRT) and training method could be applied to other sports where time constrained perception-action is required.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1106 Human Movement and Sports Science
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living (ISEAL)
Current > Division/Research > College of Sports and Exercise Science
Keywords talent identification; tennis players; skill; adaptability; training; performance; throwing and rebound task; TRT; continuous rebounding task; CRT
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