Practice makes perfect. This famous phrase is well-known and all players understand that it is impossible to improve own level and achieve significant results without systematic practice sessions. However, the question is: How many hours should junior tennis players train?
Looking at the social media, we can quickly find many 6 years old prodigies that hit the ball extremely well. Seeing that, we want to make sure that our players also present high level of play similar to this that others show us on Instagram or Facebook. If we read articles about training or we go to different tennis academies, we can experience totally different approaches. Some coaches prefer to play intensive 2 hours sessions, while others love to spend the whole day on the court. And the best thing that these 2 different approaches can produce similar results. So which way we should take with our younger players to increase the chance for fast development but at the same time, to prevent possible severe injuries and burn-out?
If we talk about the juniors, we have to exactly specify the age that we are talking about. In this article, I would like to refer to the group of players between 12 and 16 years old because kids under 12 years old shouldn’t have schedule of professional tennis periodization and players over 16 years old can compete even with pro players. So overall, junior tennis players should train 2-3 hours daily, 5-6 days per week. However, should we keep this amount as a strict rule and never increase or decrease the volume? It would be too easy!
Tennis is a quick sport where situations change frequently. The same happens to the training plan and coaches, parents and players have to be aware how to modify the amount of tennis hours to have the best results in performance’s progress (read here how to create complete development plan for tennis player). Here are the factors that should be included while deciding about the optimal amount of practice hours:
Intensity and goals
Every practice session is different. Players have to work on variety of aspects which means that intensity will not always be the same. It is crucial that every session has a goal and player should be aware of the aspects that he should focus on to score daily improvement. It means that if the intensity is moderate to high, 2-3 hours a day is enough to improve different areas and allow body for recovery. On the other hand, if coach has to work mostly on technical aspects of the game, the time on the court can be increased to achieve necessary amount of daily repetitions.
Tennis development shouldn’t be based just on tennis training. Athletic career has to include physical and mental development so players have to dedicate time to activities that will allow them to improve important aspects of development. It is really important to include additional duties in the total amount of energy expenditure and then decide about the optimal time for tennis practice. If junior player has physical session and mental work before or after tennis hitting, increasing the number of hours on the court will negatively impact the quality of his actions.
Competition is an important part of developing crucial skills to become tennis champion. Playing in tournament is a great opportunity to test own mental abilities as also to use own tactical strengths. However, every competition is really stressful as also players have to deal with many unplanned situations so the first practices after the tournament as also the last ones before the next rivalry should be adjusted. Players who finished tough competition need some break and lighter sessions while players who prepare for the tournament need to maintain intensity but they have to reduce the number of training hours to conserve the energy for competitive battles.
The topic of planning training hours is not the guideline that we can apply the same to all players at all levels. It is rather individual approach that has to include many factors. I hope, after reading this article, you find it easier to modify your current approach and be conscious about the amount that should be the base of your scheduling. Remember that quality is always better than quantity so before you make any changes in the amount of training hours, make sure that every minute of the practice has 100% effort included.
Marcin Bieniek is a professional tennis coach. You can contact Marcin through his personal coaching website http://marcinbieniek.info. Marcin has been working with USTA, top 50 ITF and WTA/ATP players. Author of tennis book “Tenisowy Olimp” and frequent contributor to TennisPro and TenisKlub magazines. He was a speaker at International Coaching Tennis Symposium 2016 and 2021 at Hilton Head Island, USA.