Just before the start of the 2012 French Open, an article in The New York Times
titled “The Strong Survive Match Point” discusses how important the physical aspects of the tennis are to success at the highest level.
Below is a quote from US Davis Cup Captain and former World no.1 who was considered the fittest player of his generation: “I certainly think these guys at the top, they have very large teams they work with,” said Jim Courier. “They have become very scientific about their sweat loss and replacing the minerals very specifically with what’s coming out of their bodies. And I think they’ve really taken the science on the legal side up to the next level, which is interesting. I think they also have gotten much better at recovery.”
The important of the tennis performance specialist who is trained appropriately to work with tennis athletes and who understands how to get the most of the training aspects is paramount to success on the tennis court at any level. The one major area of improvement over the next decade is the area of recovery. Most players train less than 8 hours per day (tennis, physical etc), but have 16 hours or more to focus on recovery. This recovery is mental, physical, nutritional, emotional and requires the right environment with the correct recovery modalities from sleep, to nutrition, to massage, manipulations, adjustments, hot and/or cold treatments, acupuncture, laser and many other modalities that may help speed recovery.
One of the best points in the article came from one of the best coaches over the last two decades – Paul Annacone. Coach Annacone was the coach of Pete Sampras and now Roger Federer. He emphasized the point that “Rafa is going to train totally different than Roger, and Roger will train totally different than Tsonga.”
This statement cannot be overemphasized for the tennis athlete at any level – junior, collegiate, professional, adult league or senior. The training program for each athlete needs to be developed based around the strengths and weakness of the individual athlete, and some athletes need more tennis-specific endurance work, other athletes need more speed and power work, some need extra strength work, many athletes need flexibility work, while all younger athletes needs work on general athletic skills as a foundation to build upon as they age.
The importance of having an individualized tennis-specific program for improving on-court performance and reducing injuries is now a requirement at the highest levels of the game. This same professionalism of training is also being seen at the collegiate and junior levels. Over the next decade this trend is only going to continue, and the need for qualified and highly skilled professionals to work in this environment is only increasing. Check out the International Tennis Performance Association: your resources for the most current evidence-based information from the leading minds in the field of tennis-specific training and the leader in education and certification of professionals who work with tennis athletes at any level
Much of the talk in the sports media in the United States is centering more and more on the potential concussion dangers of football (American football for our international friends), especially at an early age. A recent story in USA Today (May 23rd, 2012) further expounded on those fears, with Tom Brady’s father expressing doubt whether he would let his son Tom Brady play football all over again. "This head thing is frightening for little kids," Brady Sr. said. "I think Kurt Warner is 100% correct. He's there to protect his children, and these other people who are weighing in are not addressing the issue of whether it's safe or not for kids."
According to the article, in a recent study, researchers at the Center for Injury Biomechanics, a joint effort of Virginia Tech and Wake Forest, estimated there are currently 3.5 million USA football players in youth leagues. Furthermore, while youth league players have fewer and lower-magnitude head impacts than high school and college players, high-magnitude hits do occur, and most happen in practice.
While we wish our sports cousin of football the least amount of injuries possible, this is an opportunity for the sport of tennis, and parents/coaches, to promote and speak about the health benefits and lower risk of injuries for young tennis players, when compared to football. Tennis involves no physical contact and the chance of concussion is highly unlikely. Compared to many other sports, tennis has a multitude of benefits from health, fitness to cognition and learning; whereas, many other sports do have possible negatives with respect to injury rates.
With the introduction of 10 and under tennis, the balls are bounce lower, racquets are smaller (more appropriate to a young athlete’s size) and courts smaller. Whether you are for or against the new ITF and USTA rule changes, it’s pretty clear that tennis is a great sport for young athletes to gain athletic skills in a safer environment than other sports. Plus, you get to wear hats over helmets :)
I think we all understand the many lifelong benefits of tennis play from a health, fitness and wellness perspective. However, much of the interest has traditionally been in how tennis can improve an individual’s life as they age, cardiovascular health, bone density, muscle strength, etc. These are all important benefits of tennis play and will be discussed in other posts. As tennis provides so many physical and mental benefits, it should be considered a major tool in reversing the disturbing trend in childhood obesity levels in developed nations. It is well documented that tennis players have below average body fat compared to the normal population and this makes sense due to the activity level (calories burned), but other factors also contribute to this including the lifestyle that most tennis players live by. Better diets, active friends, a peer group that has a similar interest in physical activity among many others. Although exercise alone is not the answer for avoiding childhood obesity, it is a key part of the equation. Let’s look at how playing tennis regularly helps you to avoid childhood obesity.
We have become a society of little movement, and even schools are eliminating basic physical education requirements. When you don’t move, your body does not require many calories to function on a daily basis. Exercise not only improves your body’s fitness and finesse, but also burns calories that would otherwise become transformed into fat. That’s the basic equation: if you eat more calories than you burn, then the excess calories become stored as fat for the future. And if you continue to eat more than you burn off, the fat storage will accumulate more and more. This simple concept seems to be lost on a vast number of the population. Too much food, too little exercise. Tennis can increase the exercise component of this equation.
Although tennis players have lower body fat than the general population, exercise alone is not enough to avoid obesity. We have become a society that is sugar and starch addicted. We like “fast foods,” which make us feel good in the short run but which lead to obesity if left unchecked in the long run. Here is the problem. Rather than eating a well-balanced diet that includes fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grains, and protein through meat, fish or soy. If the calories from sweet and starch foods are not burned off through exercise, then they become stored as fat. Many people mistakenly think that fat tissue comes from eating fatty foods, but the reality is that most fat tissue in the body is from consuming too many sweets and starches. Better education about how this process works is needed through coaches, trainers and medical professionals. Unfortunately this simple concept is not well understood by the majority of the population.
Eating properly sounds easy, but it is not occurring sufficiently throughout society. It requires good habits on a daily basis. Many people prefer a sweet snack and this is in part because the sweet foods send signals to the brain that cause immediate gratification. Avoiding childhood obesity means developing good, daily food habits and letting go of the instant gratification of sweet foods. As children are even more interested than adults in instant gratification, they are the most vulnerable to problems with diet. This is compounded if their parent or caregiver provides these sweet and salty foods. Children will eat what is provided to them, so good choices by the caregivers are the most vital link in the entire obesity question.
Movement with Good Eating
Ultimately, avoiding childhood obesity is a way of life. Remember the simple equation: if you eat more calories than you burn off, the excess calories become stored as fat. Excess fat storage leads to obesity, which leads to many health problems. A combination of regular tennis play and healthy eating habits is a sure bet for not only avoiding childhood obesity but also for living a healthy life.
So take this information and spread the word about the many benefits of tennis play and help to do your part in reversing the childhood obesity problem.
Traditional recommendations for warming up before a tennis match have included stretching the major muscles involved in tennis movement. However, research on similar sports to tennis shows dynamic stretching (stretching while moving) yields the greatest benefits during the warm-up to a match. Despite early evidence as far back as the 1960s that static stretching prior to activity did not improve performance, it has been common practice by most coaches and tennis players in warm-up routines. Contrary to the typical anecdotal belief that static stretching helps improve physical performance, there is only a small amount of evidence suggesting it enhances athletic performance. Numerous studies, however, demonstrate that traditional “static” stretching actually impairs performance in strength, speed and power activities. Depth jump performance (a good indication of power output) as well as vertical jump height were significantly reduced. This deficit in performance can last approximately 60 minutes after the stretching routine.
Apart from the traditional, misinformed belief that pre-exercise stretching improves performance, a second major reason many coaches and athletes still perform static stretching before activity is to aid in the prevention of injury. The thought that pre-activity static stretching may reduce injury is typically linked to the theory that a “tight” muscle-tendon unit is less compliant, which means that it cannot be stretched to as great a degree. However, current research does not support this assumption and fails to show that pre-activity static stretching reduces the risk of injury.
Coach Rich Lansky, an iTPA Certification Commissioner and a top tennis performance specialist, shares a technique lesson on how to correctly perform the Romanian Deadlift (RDL). The RDL is one of the best exercises to improve hamstring and glute strength/stability and is very important to offset the typical imbalances seen in many tennis athletes (i.e. overdeveloped muscles on the front of the lower body - hipflexors and quadriceps). Coach Lansky shows us in the video some important concepts to remember when performing one of the most important, yet poorly executed, exercises for the tennis athlete. Coach Lansky is one of top sports performance coaches in the industry and is an International Level Weightlifting Coach with a strong background training tennis athletes from junior to professional level. Coach Lansky can be reached at (www.sportsperformance.com).
From everyone involved with the ITPA we wish all the mothers a very happy day; thanks for everything that you do. In respect of Mother’s Day, this post discusses one of the most integral pieces in the development of a competitive junior tennis player – the tennis parent! Without the support of caring and passionate parent or parents, it is very difficult for a young tennis athlete to succeed at the highest levels. This is shown over the past few decades both in the research literature and also anecdotally on the professional tours. The ITPA wants to help share the most relevant and practical information to help tennis parents find the information they need to help their children succeed on the exciting and challenging path of being a competitive junior tennis athlete.
The Institute of Youth Sports at Michigan State University is one of the best research based educational sites available. The mission of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports is: “to provide leadership, scholarship and outreach that "transforms" the face of youth sports in ways that maximize the beneficial physical, psychological, and social effects of participation for children and youth while minimizing detrimental effects.” The Institute is directed by Dr. Dan Gould who has worked with the USOC, USTA and a number of other national sport governing bodies performing research and providing guidance on many areas related to sport psychology, parent education and youth sport. The Director of Coaching Education and Development is Dr. Larry Lauer, who is also on the advisory board of the ITPA and is a leader in the field of coaching education and parent education http://www.educ.msu.edu/ysi/forparents.htm
Responsible Sport Parenting is a great site that is sponsored by Liberty Mutual insurance, and provides some very useful information and resources for parents of youth athletes in all sports http://responsiblesports.com/responsible_sport_parenting/default.aspx
The USTA has performed extensive work over the past decade on parent education research and education for the parent of the junior tennis player. Much of this information is provided on their website. http://www.usta.com/About-USTA/Player-Development/Coaching-Education/110779_Role_Of_Parent/
The LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) has a good parent education website with some useful information http://www.lta.org.uk/players-parents/Supporting-your-child/
Some general blogs and other websites that provide good information for tennis parents
The Tennis Parent Bible http://www.thetennisparentsbible.com/
Parenting Aces http://parentingaces.com/
Sport Parent Support http://sportparentsupport.com
Tennis distractions come in many different forms, and minimizing those issues as much as possible can be important to a player’s success. For a competitive player (at any level) traveling across many time zones to compete in tournaments, jet lag can be one of those distractions. Jet lag is defined as feelings of disorientation encountered as a result of crossing time zones. Symptoms include loss of concentration, loss of drive, headaches, fatigue and tiredness and inability to sleep at night.
The greater number of time zones crossed, the more severe jet lag becomes. Flight times and time of arrival may affect the severity as well. The severity of symptoms may be worse 2-3 days after arrival than on the day immediately following disembarkation. Although symptoms will gradually become less severe, they can still be acute at particular times of day. There will be a window of time during the day when the period of high arousal associated with the time zone just left overlaps with the arousal high point at the new local time. Since this window may be predicted in advance, utilize it for timing of training practices in the first few days at destination. The direction of travel also affects jet lag; it is easier to handle flying in a westward direction than east.
Methods To Reduce Symptoms of Jet lag
So what are some ways to reduce the effect of jet lag? One way is to have activity and social contact during the day after arrival (don’t just lounge around the hotel). Altering training times for a few days prior to travel to take into consideration the time of competition in another time zone is known to be beneficial. Research has shown that younger athletes, as well as athletes in good physical shape, tend to cope with jet lag more easily. However, just because an athlete experiences minimal jet lag for one trip doesn’t mean it will be that way for each trip, so plan accordingly.
If it is possible to do so, flights should be scheduled so that tennis athletes arrive well in advance of competition. Even traveling eastward, allow one day for each time zone crossed, leaving a cushion of safety. The time for adaptation may be shortened by exploiting the external factors resetting biological clocks: rest/exercise, darkness/ light, meals and social influences. The key is to tune in straight away to the external influences of the new environment. Consider departure from regional airports or alternate carriers.
During lengthy flights it is next to impossible to completely eliminate jet lag, but with careful planning the symptoms can be reduced. A week prior to departure, advise the tennis athlete to adjust the wake up and night bed time, depending on the direction of the flight. A change of more than two hours may interrupt the engagements during the day. During the flight, plan a routine. For day time flights, stay awake and keep mentally active/engaged. For longer flights that entail traveling during the night, it is advisable to sleep on the plane. The timing of this should be decided in advance so that some meals on board can be missed. It is a good strategy to set your watch to local time at the next point of landing once on board the plane: in a single haul flight this would be the local time of the country of destination. The important thing is that the player mentally tunes in to the new local time straight away and adjusts behavior accordingly.
To compensate for the dry air on the plane, the tennis athlete should drink large amounts of liquid. Choose water or fruit juices, and limit alcohol and fizzy drinks. To combat the feeling of stiffness during long flights, tennis athletes can perform isometric exercises and varying range of motion exercises while in their seats, and also walk up and down the aisles every 30 minutes or so.
If the athlete traveled westward, he or she should go sleep early. However, early onset of sleep will be less likely after an eastward flight. In this case a light training session is very beneficial and can help adjust to the new time zone. Evidence also exists that exercise speeds up the adaptation to a new time zone. For the first few days in the new time zone, training sessions should not be all-out efforts. In the first few days of adaptation, avoid alcohol and avoid taking prolonged naps. Although sometimes challenging, it is highly preferable to adjust to the new time zone and try to stay awake until after dark and attempt to wake up at a relatively normal time. This adjustment although sometimes difficult (especially on long flights) can provide a major benefit to tennis athletes.
Reilly, T. (1998). Travel: Physiology, jet-lag, strategies. In: Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine and Science, T.D.Fahey (Editor). Internet Society for Sport Science: http://sportsci.org. 12 July 1998.
May 1-7 is National Physical Education and Sport Week. For those of you working with players in elementary school, below are some interesting stats.
- School-age youths should participate daily in 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity that is developmentally appropriate, enjoyable, and involves a variety of activities.1,2,3
- Muscle-strengthening: As part of their 60 or more minutes of daily physical activity, children and adolescents should include muscle-strengthening physical activity on at least 3 days of the week.
- Bone-strengthening: As part of their 60 or more minutes of daily physical activity, children and adolescents should include bone-strengthening physical activity on at least 3 days of the week.
Tennis has many health benefits, but it also fits right into the National Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: Aerobic: Most of the 60 or more minutes a day should be either moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, and should include vigorous-intensity physical activity at least 3 days a week. Quality youth sport experiences provide important developmental opportunities for children and youth. Quality sport programs provide a positive, safe and self-enhancing experience for all participants. Well-qualified and educated coaches are the key to quality sport experiences. References:
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2003). National poll shows parents and teachers agree on solutions to childhood obesity [News release]. Princeton, NJ: Author.
- Strong, W. B., Malina, R. M., Bumkie, C. J. R., Daniels, S. R., Dishman, R. K., Gutin, B., Hergenroeder, A. C., Must, A., Nixon, P. A., Pivarnik, J. M., Rowland, T., Trost, S., & Trudeau, F. (2005). Evidence based physical activity for school-age youth. Journal of Pediatrics, 146, 732-737.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture & U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2000). Nutrition and you health: Dietary guidelines for Americans (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
It’s the time of year again for the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Division I Tennis Championships! The ITPA wants to test your predictive skills in picking your favorite NCAA Tennis Men's and Women's Division I teams by submitting your picks for the final round (winner and runner up). We're giving away a tennis package prize to 2 lucky winners worth over $650 each! Spread the word and enter the ITPA NCAA Tennis Finals Challenge Contest Today! Closes May 11th, 2012 at 9 a.m
. For our international members, the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Division I Tennis Championships is the highest level of team competition in the US University system. This is the same competition where James Blake, John Isner, Kevin Anderson, Irina Falconi and many other current and retired professional players developed their game between the ages of 18-23. Check out the competition and follow the action. The last four rounds (Rd16 onward) are being hosted this year in Athens, Georgia by the University of Georgia. This is the school that John Isner attended for four years and is located less than one hour away from the ITPA world headquarters in Atlanta. See the link below to add your predictions and have a chance to win some great prizes from ITPA sponsors (Donnay and Thera-Band). It is free to enter and the ITPA wishes you the best of luck.http://www.itpa-tennis.org/ncaa-finals-contest.html
Todd Ellenbecker, DPT, CTPS, CSCS (chair of the ITPA Certification Commission and also the Director of Sports Medicine for the ATP World Tour), provides a short video and advice for strength & conditioning professionals, athletic trainers, physical therapists or other healthcare providers who may currently work with tennis athletes or who would like to work with tennis athletes in the future. Check out the short video and please share with any professional who tests, trains or treats tennis athletes at any age or level. The ITPA is recognized by the Board of Certification, Inc. to offer continuing education for Certified Athletic Trainers.