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Six General Performance Components

When mapping out a periodization plan, parent-coaches need to keep in mind there are six elements that play the most critical role in the player's training. Those elements are the six general performance components (GPC) that a player needs to develop in order to become a complete, well-rounded player. They are physical, technical, tactical, strategic, mental and environmental. 

Each of the boxes in the graphic below links to either a video or list of videos featuring USPTA Master Professionals and coaches explaining in detail each of the GPCs and their 43 subcomponents. By clicking on the white boxes, you will see a list of all videos related to each component. The colored boxes each link to one video that best explains the subcomponent selected.

Each of these components applies to players of all levels, from 10 and Under Tennis to world-class players. It is essential to construct a clear and extensive periodization plan that places each of these six training elements in a logical, comprehensive progression based on the player's ability and mental and physical maturity.

As a player develops, each of these components should improve. The player and parent-coach need to know how they all relate and be able to develop them, keeping them in mind with respect to the periodization plan. Both short- and long-term periodization require making constant adjustments. For example, based on the results or behavior patterns a parent-coach might notice in a tournament or series of tournaments, the player's lesson or training program should be adjusted and rebalanced to emphasize the components that need more development.

For instance, a parent-coach may notice that his or her child is struggling with the forehand stroke during a tournament. Therefore, in the next lesson the parent-coach will implement (or suggest to the player's primary coach) a focus on developing a more technically sound forehand. This scenario may have the player balancing the components in the following manner:

  • 60 percent technical
  • 10 percent tactical
  • 10 percent mental
  • 10 percent physical
  • 10 percent strategic

Once the player has made progress with the forehand and begins preparing for the next tournament, the short-term periodization plan might change the lessons to include the following balance:

  • 40 percent tactical
  • 30 percent strategic
  • 15 percent mental
  • 10 percent technical
  • 5 percent physical

A parent-coach, no matter how involved in the player's training process, should be aware of the player's needs, know how to recognize which of the six components need more attention, and understand how they relate. Try to be sure each of these components is incorporated into the child's lessons and training programs.

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PHYSICAL

The physical component, the basis of any player's ability to play the game, includes all that is needed for a player to develop fitness, health and injury prevention. There are seven subcomponents interrelated to a player's physical development: motor skills, conditioning, speed, agility and quickness, strength, nutrition, flexibility and medical.

Proper development of a player's physical component is critical. A tennis teacher must always be conscious of this component, whether he or she is hitting with a student, using dead-ball feeds or overseeing an intense workout. Regardless of a student's age or skill level, it is vital for a teacher to assess the player's activity level and overall condition.

After sufficient evaluation of a student's physical condition, a teacher should be able to design a training regimen that mixes common sense and sound medical knowledge to create a program that is both enjoyable and educational for a player.

Physical subcomponents

The following list defines each of the subcomponents and explains them in a short video:

  1. Motor skills - Training and coordination of both gross and fine motor skills. (e.g., running, hops, skips, jumps, carioca and eye-hand skills such as catch, dribble, throw, etc.) MORE
  2. Conditioning - Aerobic and anaerobic conditioning (i.e. endurance and sprint training in conjunction with tennis-specific training) MORE
  3. Speed, agility, quickness - Drills related to reaction, change of direction, all types of tennis movement, footwork and plyometrics MORE
  4. Strength - Exercises using own body weight (e.g., push-ups, sit-ups, etc.), free weights or machines, plyometric drills MORE
  5. Nutrition - Hydration before, during and after matches, eating a healthy diet based on age and training demands MORE
  6. Flexibility - Warm-up, cool down and stretching principles, for injury prevention and training demands MORE
  7. Medical - Knowing basic injury prevention and treatment (e.g., RICE), seeking appropriate medical attention and treatment when required MORE

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Technical

The technical component involves all of the elements and skills that go into shot execution and technique. This component includes all of the elements involved in developing sound shot technique, such as getting into position, setting up for a shot and the biomechanics of correctly hitting a ball.

The eight technical subcomponents are: tracking skills, racquet skills, shot fundamentals, ball control, movement and footwork, modern shot technique, developing weapons and developing game styles.

Technical subcomponents

The following list defines each of the subcomponents and explains them with a short video.

  1. Tracking skills - Gauging an incoming ball's characteristics and flight path (e.g., spin, pace, depth, direction, etc.) MORE
  2. Racquet skills - Learning to use a racquet as the extension of the arm and adjust the racquet face to control the ball MORE
  3. Shot fundamentals - Learning the foundations of all shots - from anticipation to execution MORE
  4. Ball control - Learning to control spin, pace, depth and direction of various shots MORE
  5. Movement and footwork - Perfecting footwork for prediction, interception, preparation and recovery within specific shots or sequences MORE
  6. Modern shot technique - Understanding the specifics and complexities of the modern angular game MORE
  7. Developing weapons - Developing one or more punishing shots that are hit as winners or that force errors with great regularity MORE
  8. Developing game styles - Understanding one's strengths and creating a playing style to capitalize on them MORE

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Tactical

The tactical component takes into account all of the variables a player implements during a point, such as power, spin and placement. Where a player hits a shot, how early he takes it, the speed and trajectory at which he hits a shot and the type of shot he chooses to hit all involve certain tactics. A player's use and combination of tactics with every shot create an overall strategy.

Consistency, placement, patterns, spins, power, shot selection and competitive situations are the seven tactical subcomponents.

Tactical subcomponents

The following list defines each of the subcomponents and explains them with a short video:

  1. Consistency - The ability of a player to get the ball back more times than an opponent using optimum pace and control MORE
  2. Placement - Selecting a target and hitting the ball there MORE
  3. Patterns - Combinations of shots that help achieve a strategy (e.g., hitting crosscourt to open up the down-the-line shot) MORE
  4. Spins - Developing offensive and defensive spins for control and power MORE
  5. Power - Imparting pace on shots for both offensive and defensive purposes MORE
  6. Shot selection - Deciding placement and type of shot to be hit (offensive, defensive, neutral) MORE
  7. Competitive situations - Ability to execute all of the above in a competitive situation MORE

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Strategic

The strategic component involves a player's overall game plan and usually incorporates two or more of the tactical elements. Types of strategy may include serve-and-volley, running an opponent until he gets tired or attacking an opponent's weaker side. Strategies may change during the course of a match, so a player must learn how to adjust his strategy in certain situations based on outside variables such as an opponent's style of play, the physical environment and particular game or match scores.

Repetition, recognizing strengths, game style, surfaces, game situations, match situations and tournament situations all make up the strategic component of tennis.

Strategic subcomponents

The following list defines each of the subcomponents and explains them with a short video:

  1. Repetition - The ability to reproduce tactics that have proved successful against an opponent MORE
  2. Recognizing strengths - Knowing one's strengths and weaknesses and using that knowledge to develop a game plan or tactics against different opponents MORE
  3. Game style - Understand and distinguish between game styles and knowing how to use them and defend against them MORE
  4. Surfaces - Knowing all types of playing surfaces with their individual playing characteristics and the ability to adapt to each of them appropriately MORE
  5. Game situations - Adapting to typical playing conditions that occur during a game in a match (e.g., playing ad points, etc.) MORE
  6. Match situations - Adapting to playing situations that occur during a set in a match (e.g., when to change a losing strategy) MORE
  7. Tournament situations - Adapting to the variety of challenges that occur in the normal course of a tournament MORE

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Mental

The mental component is important because, as an individual sport, tennis requires a player to be mentally tough. Developing this component means developing a player's on-court focus, how the player carries himself during competition and how he handles certain situations. The mental component is directly related to each of the five additional components and can affect them either positively or negatively.

If a player hits one bad shot in a game, he is prone to losing his confidence, temperament and concentration for the rest of the match if he cannot control his mentality and stay focused. A player can have all the physical, technical, tactical and strategic talent in the world, but if he has not developed the mental component, it will be difficult to win a match.

The subcomponents of self-esteem, confidence, independence, discipline, temperament, concentration, goal setting, sportsmanship and competitive readiness all play a role in a player's mentality on court.

Mental subcomponents

The following list defines each of the subcomponents and explains them in a short video:

  1. Self-esteem - Building players who have confidence and satisfaction within themselves MORE
  2. Confidence - Developing self-assurance and trust of a player's self-sufficiency MORE
  3. Independence - Building self-reliance in players to meet the arduous challenges in an individual sport such as tennis MORE
  4. Discipline - Training that is expected to produce a desirable character or patterns of behavior most suitable to the game of tennis MORE
  5. Temperament - Developing an ideal manner of thinking, behaving, and reacting that is characteristic of a successful tennis player MORE
  6. Concentration - Developing players who can control the direction and attention of their thoughts and focus on the primary task at hand MORE
  7. Goal setting - Training players in goal setting and how to periodize their goals and accomplishments based on level and aspirations MORE
  8. Sportsmanship - Reinforcing in players the qualities and conduct befitting competitors who react to victory and defeat graciously MORE
  9. Competitive readiness - A combination of the eight aspects above to create a supreme level of mental and physical performance MORE

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Environmental

The environmental component includes everything affecting the player off-court, particularly his or her social, personal and home life. The environmental subcomponents that affect a player are fun, home, social, economic and competitive.

A positive environment is key to a successful child and player. The status of a player's environment can often become a distraction to the player on court because it affects the player's mentality and concentration. Therefore, it is important for a parent-coach to do his or her best to control any elements within their power and minimize distractions, particularly in reference to the home and economic subcomponents.

Environmental subcomponents

The following list defines each of the subcomponents and explains it in a short video:

  1. Fun - An enjoyable and pleasurable atmosphere must be created in all aspects and levels of learning, training and playing (e.g., even world-class players have fun playing and winning) MORE
  2. Home - Importance of support mechanisms that include the immediate family and geographical environment (e.g., competitive players generally have a very supportive family structure and live in a city or state with a strong tennis environment) MORE
  3. Social - Structuring a social environment that enhances the likelihood of a player reaching the desired level of play (e.g., if a player has friends who play only other sports, socializing takes time away from tennis) MORE
  4. Economic - Economic resources affect player development in that they may increase opportunities for coaching, travel, etc. Coach or parent should know where economic aid is available for less privileged players MORE
  5. Competitive - Analyzing and producing the best competitive conditions for players by managing (or training the players to manage) the challenges both on court and off (e.g., periodization of key elements of training, arranging competitive practices, tournament selection and travel, etc.) MORE

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The 43 subcomponents

For each of the six general performance components, there are a number of subcomponents that apply. There are a total of 43 subcomponents, and each was shown on the chart on the previous page.

Integration of subcomponents

At first glance, these 43 subcomponents appear to be independent areas of training, but when a player's strengths and weaknesses are evaluated and his or her game develops, one can see that all of these areas are integrated across the six GPCs. Many subcomponents can be connected to one or more other subcomponents, and oftentimes the development of one subcomponent can affect or change another.

For example, if during a match a player is having trouble getting to the ball in time and seems to be moving slowly, that would be an indication to the parent-coach that the child needs to work on his speed, agility and quickness (Physical) in relation to their movement and footwork (Technical). Now that the parent-coach realizes where the root of the problem lies, he or she can adjust the next lesson to focus on activities that develop quick movement and footwork.

Building blocks - progression of subcomponents

Similarly, the subcomponents listed under each GPC are purposely placed in a particular order from top to bottom. In most cases, the development of one subcomponent naturally builds toward the development of the next. For example, under the tactical component, consistency is listed first. Once a player develops consistency in his or her shots, that tactic helps to work on placement. When the placement tactic is mastered, the player begins to develop patterns, which are dependent on both placement and consistency. This chain continues through the last four subcomponents of spins, power, shot selection and competitive situations.

The same principle can be applied to the mental component. Self-esteem must be developed first, not just for an individual sport like tennis, but for all endeavors in the child's life. Self-esteem then builds to confidence, which enables the child to stay relaxed while playing, and confidence leads to independence, which is a critical factor dependent on the previous two subcomponents. This chain also continues down through the remaining six subcomponents.

Understanding how to use subcomponents in training

Parent-coaches should look at this chart and ask, "Where is my child's current level at each of these components during each progressive stage of overall development? Which subcomponents need work or development? How do these subcomponents fit into the periodization plan?"

It is important that a parent-coach understand how these 43 subcomponents are related, how to recognize a player's problem, which subcomponents are related to that problem and how to fix it. The general performance components are a guideline of skills that players have to learn either through training, example or necessity. For it is not just one subcomponent that helps develop a player, but it is the combination of them that helps create a solid, well-rounded player.

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Physical Technical Strategic Tactical Mental Environmental Motor skills Conditioning saq strength Nutrition Flexibility Medical tracking Racquet skills shot fundamentals Ball control movement and footwork modern shot technique developing weapons developing game styles consistency placement patterns spins power shot selection competitive situations repetition recognizing strengths game style surfaces game situations match situation tournament situations self-esteem confidence independence discipline temperament concentration goal setting sportsmanship competitive readiness
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