Planning of elite junior tennis players’ development historically has been based either on the coach’s personal experiences or on the schedules of well-respected, successful pros. However, as the training of tennis athletes become more advanced and technology allows for more data-driven decisions, effective periodization as part of training and competition is one factor that separates the development of many good junior players. With so many variables affecting the schedule of a player’s program (weather, number of matches, training status, diet, health of the athlete, etc., effective coaches, Certified Tennis Performance Specialists (CTPS) and trainers must be able to adapt programs to the athlete’s individual needs.
How can you plan a Periodization training schedule with all these factors in play?
Be able to adapt!
Most juniors that have the goal of playing at the collegiate or professional level are part of a high-performance program. These programs are very structured and often have scheduled competition plans. The plans are normally focused on three competitive routes: state/national tournaments, ITF junior events, professional tournaments (ITF/ATP/WTA). Most high-performance juniors will be a combination of all three levels of tournaments during the junior career. For example, when Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were 17, Nadal competed in 20 professional events while Federer competed in 14 junior events and four professional events.
Of course all plans should be made and customized to the individual player, but typical plans range from 16-30 tournaments a year. Therefore, training blocks between tournaments become very important. “Training blocks feature between these clusters of tournaments, providing coaches in the region of 20 weeks or almost 40% of total tennis time to focus on specific (technical, tactical, physical, or mental) goals.” (Reid) This is where being adaptive comes into play.
Tournaments/ competitive foci
18-22 tournaments (assuming competitive foci [a] but more likely [b] or [c])
(a) professional events only
20-30 tournaments (assuming competitive foci [b] or [c])
(b) Professional events with a small number of ITF junior events
(c) ITF junior events with a small number of professional events
Doubles as agreed by player and coach
Win to loss ratio
Reid et al (2009). Strength and Conditioning Journal
So with all the variability that can affect periodization programs how can coaches adjust?
It involves working backwards. You may be a familiar with the leadership expert Stephen Covey’s famous work “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” In his work Dr. Covey outlines 7 important habits. All these have great merit; however, the most important habit when it comes to periodization is:
HABIT 2: BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND.
Understanding an athlete’s tournament schedule and determining the priority tournaments for the year, and the priority training periods, allows for a structured and effective periodized plan. Without beginning with the end in mind, constant and longitudinal success is difficult.
See the iTPA Inner Circle website for more information on this topic (members only). Also the iTPA certification programs provide full modules on effective tennis-specific periodization and planning programs for junior, collegiate, professional and adult league players. Check out the resources at www.itpa-tennis.org
Reid, M., Quinlan, G., Kearney, S., Jones, D., (2009). Planning and Periodization for the Elite Junior Tennis Player. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 31 (4), 69-76.