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The relationship between fitness, exercise adherence and tennis performance in young, British, elite players

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posted on 27.05.2014, 11:30 by Rosemary E. Harrison
Tennis not only requires sound technique and skill, but the recent development of the game has led to increased importance being placed on a diverse range of physical attributes. Anecdotally, fitness is a prerequisite to successful performance in topclass senior tennis. However, the relevance of fitness and physical training to the junior game has received scant research attention. This thesis describes two related studies which examine the importance of fitness to junior tennis and the factors which underpin fitness improvements and adherence to fitness training in elite, junior players. The primary aim of the first study was to investigate whether there was a relationship between fitness and performance in elite, junior tennis. The possible influence of age and gender on this relationship was also of interest. 247 (139 males; 108 females) players aged between 9 and 17 years were fitness tested three times a year between 1992-1996. Scores achieved on the Court Sprint, Fan Drill, Standing Broad Jump and Multistage Fitness tests were keyed into a database for the purpose of statistical analysis. Scores on all four tests were significantly correlated to age. Significant gender differences in test scores became apparent between the ages of 12-14 years. Taking age into account, the boys' overall performance on the four tests, and the girls' Standing Broad Jump and Court Sprint scores were significantly (but weakly) correlated with performance rating. The strongest correlations between fitness test scores and rating occurred, on the whole, between 14-16 years in boys, and between 12-14 years in girls. All between-test correlations were significant. Despite the weak fitness test/performance rating correlations mentioned above, in general, fitness test scores were concluded to bear little relation to tennis performance (rating) in the junior elite player. Improved tennis performance and fitness test scores were thought to be a result of increased age and physical development. Performance on one fitness test was related to performance on the others. The second study aimed to establish whether there was a relationship between fitness and adherence to exercise and physical training. A range of research methods, including interview, postal questionnaire and self-administered questionnaire, were employed to collect data from players, parents and coaches regarding players' attitudes towards, and patterns of physical activity. The player sample included the three fittest and the three least fit male and female players within three discrete age groups (11-12 years, 13-14 years, and 15-16 years). Levels of intrinsic motivation to fitness training were shown to significantly influence adherence to a fitness programme in players. However, adherence to a fitness programme was unrelated to players' fitness levels, as were levels of habitual physical activity and social factors. It was concluded that the key factor underpinning fitness improvements in both male and female players was physical development/maturity.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


© R.E. Harrison

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A Master's Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Master of Philosophy of Loughborough University.



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