Developmental fitness curves, an innovative strategy for assessing acceleration relative to age and maturity in elite youth tennis player

Gill Myburgh

Physical performance testing is routinely implemented in youth sport programmes to assess the physical capabilities of young athletes. Such practices are commonplace in elite youth tennis programmes and are generally used to inform talent identification and monitor athletic development. In youth tennis populations, measures of speed have been found to distinguish between players of different abilities, highlighting the importance of assessing this component. Speed development in youths does, however, not follow a linear pattern of improvement. Two accelerated periods of development have been identified, with improvements attributed to neurological and maturational components (increased limb length, hormone levels). The purpose of this study is therefore to develop maturity sensitive strategies for assessing speed measures in youth tennis players and evaluate the degree to which performance varies according to biological age.