How to Recognize Tennis Talent
This article Talent Identification in Tennis was written by Dave Samuels. I hope you will find it interesting and useful.
Spotting talented junior athletes who might have an aptitude for tennis is part art and part science. In addition to speed, strength, power, coordination and balance, tennis players need a variety of mental skills. Understanding a few basics of talent spotting will help you determine if a child has the potential to succeed as a competitive tennis player.
The International Tennis Federation’s Doug MacCurdy recommends six areas for coaches to consider when identifying tennis talent: physiological, physical, psychological, technical/tactical, results and intangibles. Physiological attributes include parameters such as height, weight and arm span. To gauge physical attributes, MacCurdy suggests testing young tennis players in running, jumping, catching, throwing, coordination, agility, tennis-specific speed, power, endurance and flexibility. Psychological attributes include self-esteem, confidence and competitiveness, with an interest in playing tennis one of the most important factors in judging talent. To spot tactical talent, look for player’s ability to move the ball around the court and solve problems.
Dancers, skiers, skaters, gymnasts, soccer players and others who use balance and footwork to excel have an edge in tennis over those with lesser footwork. No matter how much power a tennis player has or what level of stroke technique, they won’t maximize the use of these if they are not in the correct position to hit the ball.
Tennis players not only play frequently, but also they must practice most days. If players love playing matches but do not enjoy practicing, that might be a sign they will be limited to playing at the recreational level. Look for players to ask to stay on the court after practice, or who practice on their own. Players who ask to add points or tasks to drills demonstrate a love of competition.
If children are successful at more than one sport, it’s an indication they have developed the fundamental physical skills necessary to become a top competitor. Single-sport players might be able to dominate their sport at an early age because they have a big serve, fastball or passing ability. Look for children who excel in multiple sports, especially those that require throwing, catching, running, kicking, hitting and jumping.
Avoid the Results Trap
Don’t use tennis rankings or other competition results in young players as a gauge of future success. Tennis players who dominate at the 12-and-under and 14-and-under age levels have learned to play like 12- and 14-year-olds, usually keeping the ball in play until opponents make mistakes, rather than developing an attacking game. Post-pubescent children may mature in ways that benefit their game as they take advantage of more height or muscle.
So, what do you think about finding tennis talent?