Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 10 seconds

Apart from many other activities, we are on an exciting research topic these days. We are calling our internal findings as below.
It will be a two-part series.

Part 1 – Early Development (written below)
Part 2 – Late Development (to be published)

For us, it is awe-inspiring to note that in many western countries there is a lot of importance given to tennis research. Research then has a mechanism of travelling to the grass root levels of educating tennis development professionals (coaches). Tennis development professionals then prepare their tennis development programs.In this type of ecosystem parents too gain and pick a lot of correct things!

However, like any other research, these types of well-run research needs money, and we have found that some of these tennis federations are funded and have genuine long-term intentions. Then there are many universities and typically their faculty of physical education and recreation at times taking up an assignment related to tennis research. They do a very good job.

In India, we have not yet come across any organisation, body, individuals, university or anyone who is looking into tennis research. Hence we have a system in place more or less only to conduct tournaments. We still do not have an ecosystem in place to nurture tennis talent development in real terms. Not yet and there is no such indication of that day being near too. Here almost everyone is on their own, and that builds the initial cracks in the overall development of a child. What happens to parents in this type of environment? More aware they are more benefit they can gain from such ecosystem. We at TuPA would like to look at it from that perspective.

We found numerous research articles, studies and thesis related to this subject and we read all of them, well almost all of them 🙂
Below report is the result of such readings.
We must mention here that we found some of the research harshly correct but all for good reasons. It is not for the faint-hearted.

Now with this background let us move on.

Here we go – There is a mention of something called as Early Match Playing Success (EMPS) phenomenon which occurs during early years of tennis player development in some cases. The research has shown that some children start playing young (6-7 years) and they play only tennis because of time constraints. However, out of many such kids a few of them are fast learners, good thinkers, and above all, they make relatively few mistakes than other children. With time all this gets noticed by their team around such kids. This is the time of a real test for everyone around the kid but not for the kid.

Most of the times it is told to these children to try and make even fewer errors by keeping the ball in during a rally. This leads to an overall long-term failure as over the years when these type of kids grow they start playing with simple tactics (for example keeping the ball in at any cost) as doing anything more than that can be error-prone, and it can result in a loss. A loss is an earth-shattering event for them. Victory is everything.

Note – Read our article on which tournament your child should play next by clicking here.

Noticeably, with time these kids also develop a collection of small strokes for their growing age. They, however, are told to continue using these small group of strokes and continue making very few errors. This combination leads to multiple tournaments win, and this begins the story of a successful tournament winning child of one type. Not surprisingly the child is commonly termed as a future star or a child with a lot of potential as they gain an outstanding national ranking in their age categories. By playing numerous matches in a tennis calendar plus the natural ability to make fewer errors with limited strokes ranking points are collected. Maybe 100s of matches are played in order to get there.

Note – Read our article on how many tournaments a child should play in a year by clicking here

Research world terms these type of tournament participation as large, unnatural and harmful tournament commitments.

Moving on – the effect that this phenomenon leaves on the adults (parents, coaches, fitness trainers, nutritionists etc.) is a state of self-inflicted confusion within themselves. Over-ambition and hunger for short-term success leave them with very less time to work on basics. This makes it even more evident that it is not the system which has produced the tournament winning kid but some natural abilities of such kid which leads to early tournament wins.

We would request the parents who have reached till here to hold on to their thoughts, we will touch base on the other side of the story also, but that is part two.

Moving on further – At around 15-16 years of age the first signs of after effects start showing. All because of lack of time and wrong direction that was taken very early on (6-7 years back). Lack of time results directly into lack of training and hence less skilled overall player are produced. Soon after this loss starts becoming more frequent. Typically these losses will come against players who have spent time in their younger years in technical, tactical, physical and related areas of improvement by playing fewer tournaments and improving more.

Note – However, a word of BIG caution for parents here. We as parents need to find and figure out if all the improvement required during growing years of a child is occurring correctly or not even if you are on the track of playing less and improving more mode. It is not guaranteed that by only playing less you would improve more. More on this in part 2.

Moving on to the last part now – All this happens (adjusting to losses, figuring out what went wrong) for another 2 years and now the child is almost 18 years of age. It is seen that it is somewhat difficult for a multiple tournament winning player during younger years to sustain these losses. Interest in game drops and burn out strikes at this stage for some of them. Many such kids leave the sport at this stage. It is a rather obscure and emotional moment equally for the child and the parents. Needs loads of attention and care to handle this situation, well if you land up in one.
However, if despite losses the child continues to play then that results in the ultimate test for everyone around that child. To catch up late. Figures show that it takes approximately another two years to unlearn & learn many areas of the game at that stage. By the time this child is already in their 20s. Many of them can’t come out of it. Finally, average players are produced down the line.

However, for those others (who are winning now), the journey has just begun.

Our next part Part 2 – Late Development (to be published) will try to highlight some points about the correct way development and much more with concluding observations.

Stay tuned.

<< back to part 2