Coach approaches to practice design in performance tennis

Emma Anderson*, Joseph Antony Stone, Marcus Dunn, Ben Heller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


Research demonstrates the benefits of a more contemporary, ecological-dynamics led approach in sport coaching; however, traditional methods of practice design persist. Few studies have explored the intentions of performance tennis coaches as they design practice. This study explored performance tennis coach philosophies and approaches to practice design. Interviews took place with ten high performance coaches who worked within a national tennis performance network. A thematic analysis revealed that coach approaches to practice design were informed by 1) their experiential knowledge and 2) their beliefs regarding player development. Coaches emerged as learners, who developed their knowledge through unmediated, informal learning opportunities, for example reflective practice and ‘on the job' experience. Six coaches had played tennis professionally, valuing this as a learning experience that informed their own practice. Three common beliefs regarding player development emerged between participants: repeatable players, performing under pressure, and individualised practice. These beliefs formed practice design principles, which translated into a uniform implementation of drills (serial, blocked, repeated patterns of play) and the intuitive inclusion of representative practice designs and constraints manipulation. The findings from this study suggest that, although performance tennis coaches are aware of contemporary approaches to practice design, a traditional, information-processing approach to skill development dominates their design of practice tasks. This study documents approaches to practice design in elite tennis and contributes to a growing body of pedagogical research in performance sport.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1281-1292
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Sports Science and Coaching
Issue number6
Early online date28 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Coaching philosophy, constraints-led approach, ecological dynamics, experiential knowledge, racket sport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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