Tennis is an intermittent sport and characterised by repeated high-intensity short bursts of running and multiple explosive change of directions. Enhanced speed and agility skills are known to provide the tennis players for economical and efficient on-court movement, whereas the golden ages for improving these qualities are between the ages of 5-12. It was found that physical components have a strong relation with match results and ranking, agility is the only physical performance variable used to predict competitive rankings in younger male tennis players. Although it is important to assess motor performance in children for both physical fitness development and talent identification in sport, there are only few studies in the literature evaluating specific motor performances on the junior tennis players and lack of normative motor performance data especially for Turkish junior tennis players. The purposes of this study were both to establish percentile normative data and to find age and sex differences in motor performance tests of 9-10 years old junior tennis players in Turkey.
Tests were applied to 9 and 10 years old 2461 competitive tennis players over 3 years. All of the players (925 boys and 647 girls for 9 years old; 495 boys and 394 girls for 10 years old) participated to 5 different motor performance tests; 5m and 10 m sprint tests (s), tennis ball throwing test (m), standing long jump test (m) and modified tennis planned agility test (s). The highest score of two trials for each test was recorded. The mean and standard deviation for each test data were calculated according to the players’ age and gender groups, and then percentile tables were established for them. A percentile is defined as a value in the distribution below which a given percentage of the scores is found. Percentiles can provide a norm-referenced interpretation of an individual score within a distribution that often consists of scores from a comparable group of individuals. In addition, Wilcoxon signed ranks test was used to determine significant differences in the related measures of the groups.
Although significant age and sex differences were found on all of the motor tests, it appears that age generally was related more to performance than was gender. Gender differences of a lesser magnitude were found on only 5 m sprint test. This findings are consistent with the results of other studies in which the examined the relationship of age and sex differences in motor performance of 3-6 years old children.
Using the tables, players and coaches have a set of normative data by which individual player’s performance scores may be compared with others and they can determine which skills need to be improved for players on an individual basis and talent identification in sport. Specific training programs can then be designed based on a player’s fitness testing results and they may prove to be of great assistance to physicians for injury prevention.
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