Young tennis athletes revel in the benefits of Sports Science


Young tennis athletes revel in the benefits of Sports Science

06 November, 2015   Joanne Tan

SEA Juniors Bio Mechanics Photo: SEA Junior Tournament 2015/SportSG

Athletes participating in the 2015 S.E.A. Junior Tournament had an eye-opening experience during a biomechanics session conducted by the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) on Thursday evening. For many, it was a first-hand experience of the role that sports science could play in their development as a tennis player.

“For my players, it’s the first time they got to use these facilities and technology. This seminar was beneficial because they could learn more about biomechanics in tennis and different kinds of exercises from the experts,” said Philippines head coach Czarina Arevalo.

“Sports science [can be used as a form of] assistance to being out on court. You need to approach it with a question in mind for it to be effective, whether if it’s to improve your agility, dynamics of your service motions, or ball speed,” SSI Sport Biomechanist, Ryan Hodierne, pointed out.

SEA Juniors Bio Mechanics Photo: SEA Junior Tournament 2015/SportSG

“Through this biomechanics session, we hope they will get immediate feedback through real-time video visuals and see how a small change of being faster or more explosive through the legs will have an impact on the ball speed. They can critique themselves from a third person view and improve their skills from there.”

The young tennis players were first given an overview of the SSI biomechanics lab, before taking turns to use the technology on display to gauge their physical abilities. Equipment such as the speed display boards, which indicated service speeds simultaneously as a player serves, provided valuable insights.  

“I liked it when we tested the speed of our serves, as it helped me to determine if it is enough or still needs to be increased to improve my game,” said Filipino tennis player Amanda Gabrielle S.Zoleta.

Athletes were also able to view playbacks of their serves in a delayed time sequence via the video delay app, complemented by a program known as Dartfish 2D motion capture.

“Right before the athletes perform the next serve, they can see themselves perform the previous serve, adjust accordingly and then perform the next serve. That acts as a immediate feedback to them,” explained Hodierne, on the benefits of the Dartfish application.

SEA Juniors Bio Mechanics Photo: SEA Junior Tournament 2015/SportSG

To emphasize the need to balance speed and accuracy, Hodierne introduced an accuracy test that required players to hit balls into marked portions of their opponents’ court, and compared the speeds they achieved against the previous service segment.

“I think the one that is most relatable to the athletes would be the speed display boards as it’s a direct number that they can see, but understanding the correlation between speed and accuracy is also important for them,” Malaysia’s strength and conditioning coach Joel McGuire pointed out.

Apart from focusing on improving the athletes’ performances, the biomechanics session also touched on injury prevention, conducted by Ranald Joseph from SSI Strength and Conditioning: the athletes were guided through rotator cuff exercises to prevent a common rotator cuff injury due to excessive strain during service. Additionally, the players also practiced diagonal hops and holds to improve their balance and reduce the pressure on their joints caused by sudden halts during a match.

SEA Juniors Bio Mechanics Photo: SEA Junior Tournament 2015/SportSG

Besides focusing on injury prevention, the session included exercises that would benefit player core strength and service speed. These included take-home exercises that were easy to perform both on the court or at home.

The athletes were given a taste of 3D motion capture, with one of the players demonstrating the marker placement used during such a session and visualising his service motion in 3 dimensions using Infra-red Opto-reflective Videography. Some data that SSI have gathered from one of Singapore’s top tennis players was used to demonstrate the use, worth and benefit of such technology at the highest level of performance.