The tennis season in Great Britain is twelve months of the year with junior players training every week and tournaments you can enter more-or-less every weekend and school holidays. Tennis venues are running longer and longer programmes, incorporating squads, individual lessons and fitness sessions and the chase for ranking points in multiple age-groups is never ending. But when do our junior players rest?
In other sports there are clear pre-season and off-season periods but with the growth of indoor facilities, tennis has become a 52 week of the year sport, rather than the summer activity it used to be. This has allowed players to train more often and standards are increasing all the time, particularly in our youngest players. But the tennis journey is a very long one and more hours and less breaks could lead to burn-out, injuries and players leaving the sport.
Whilst a young player training most days, if not every day, is in a strong position to move ahead of their peers, it is this extra time on court that may ultimately prove too much for them. Unfortunately, with professional coaches relying on income from these players/parents, are they giving the best advice possible as to when children should take breaks from their training or have days off? There is an argument that everyone could always do more hours on court but there is also the counter argument that some players are doing too much and this will ultimately catch up with them.
Periodization is the term used to describe how you plan your training in phases that would see a player peaking at certain times of the year. All players need technical, tactical, physical and mental skills training if they are going to be competent tennis players but they also need periods of rest, as opposed to the same programme every week of the year. It is also important to allow children to be children, to play other sports but also socialise with friends and have time to relax. If this does not happen then not only do you run the risk of over-training but also players start to fall out of love with our wonderful sport. The physical and mental toll of too much tennis is something that we all need to avoid for the sake of our junior players.
And so, as the festive season approaches, I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. How are you going to be spending the next two weeks? Hopefully, resting and relaxing and spending as much time with your friends and family as possible. If you are playing tennis, ask yourself – did I really need to play today or could I have had the day off?