Factors to Be Considered When Creating a Tennis Talent Identification Program

There is the second part of the article Tennis talent identification and development in tennis

Factors to be considered when creating a tennis talent identification program

We strongly recommend that all national associations (NA) should have in place a tennis talent identification program (TI) as part of their general player development program. Countries that have a “small” tennis playing population (reduced base of the pyramid of opportunity) in which the “talent pool” or participation base is quite reduced need to identify talents in an efficient manner.

Those countries with a large playing base need to implement talent selection programs to select the correct talents from their “large pool”. In general, talent programs have a faster and more substantial impact on countries with reduced participation base. To organize such a talent identification program several factors need to be considered:

1. National association situation

A SWOT analysis will help if it includes, among others, the following elements:

  • Rankings. How many professional Talent Identification and Development in Tennis male and female players do you have with ATP/WTA rankings? How many juniors with ITF JWR?
  • Population. How many people live in your country? How many of them play tennis regularly…and competitively?
  • Culture. Do sport and tennis play a significant role in the culture and society of your country?
  • History. Does your country have a successful tennis history?
  • Participation and retention. What is the tennis participation level in your country? Is tennis part of the school curriculum? Do many players drop-out of tennis each year?
  • Resources. Do your players have access to enough facilities, financial help, etc.?
  • Competition. Does your country provide the necessary competition level and variation for players to develop?
  • Training. Does your country provide the necessary training resources – coaches and sport science – for players to develop?

2. National association goals

The NA has to indicate the path the TI program has to follow:

  • Direction. Where do we want to go? Players: Who are we looking for? Males and/or females? Which ages?
  • International trend. Where is the game heading to? Experts participating in the TI program should have a good knowledge and understanding of the demands of modern international tennis.
  • Model. How are we going to set up the TI program? It is recommended to use a combination of natural selection and sport science based models?
  • Financial and staff implications. How much is going to cost? Who can conduct it?

3. Tennis talent identification program

Some features of a possible TI program are:

  • Combination and flexibility. Use a holistic approach considering performance criteria, data provided by sport sciences, learning and skill development features, and social background.
  • Joint ventures. Involve schools, public facilities, private clubs, etc.
  • Share best practice. Use information available from other national associations and in sport science tennis specific literature.
  • Adaptation. Adapt the TI program to the needs and characteristics of the national association.
  • Records. Keep a database record of all participants.
  • Linking. Relate the TI program to the player development program in order to conduct TI at the different stages of the player development.
  • Participation. Do not forget about players that drop-out early from the performance strand, and provide opportunities for them to re-join or continue playing tennis at a participation level.
  • Education. Consider that tennis coaches may need better education and  training to identify talents.

4. Follow up of the TI program

The national association should have a clear picture in mind of what will be the future development of the talented players identified and selected.  Enough resources need to be allocated to ensure that these players will be provided with adequate opportunities for their talent not to be wasted. This should be part of the player development program of the national tennis association.

Conclusion

Identifying talent in tennis is more of an art than science and therefore a flexible approach is recommended. The fact is that the long-term tennis player development path is a complex process that should continuously involve some degree of identification and selection (natural or formal) of talented players at virtually all stages. This process should be a joint venture that will facilitate the combined work of coaches and sport scientists in order to fully benefit from the experience and knowledge accumulated in tennis.

In closing, due to the inherent difficulties of the tennis talent identification process with beginner level tennis players and the fact that the testing of these players does not ensure very accurate results, recent research on the development of expertise in young tennis players and the years of practical on tennis court dedication required suggest that the terms talent identification, detection and selection are surpassed by the principle of long-term player development. This broader concept includes the nurturing of tennis expertise by creating the necessary conditions for talent development in all stages of the process.

Several models of talent development have been presented in the sports literature. These models consider different stages of development from the initial exposure of the child to the sport to the retirement of the player, and are being applied by national tennis associations with the intention of providing talented players the best opportunities possible to develop their potential.

Tennis talent identification should not be used to discriminate against the less able but should assist tennis coaches and national tennis associations to design training and competition programs to maximize potential and participation of all tennis players.

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