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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
The 43 Sub-Components
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.