Some 23 under-14 tennis players gathered in an austere seminar room for a talk on sports psychology. It was the first day of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Junior Tennis Training Camp, organised by the ActiveSG Tennis Academy, and the youths (13 local and 10 regional participants) were about to learn more about the game’s values and best practices, as well as improve their training habits.
Under-14 tennis players gathered for a talk on sports psychology by Singapore Sports Institute’s (SSI) Associate Sports Psychologist Joshua Chua. Photo: Sport Singapore
However, there were neither seats nor tables. The room had been cleared, chairs to the side, and the kids sat chatting easily on the floor. The session, headed by Singapore Sports Institute’s (SSI) Associate Sports Psychologist Joshua Chua, began with team-bonding games that demonstrated just how boisterous these young players could be.
This set the tone – “not just a training camp, but a learning camp,” according to the Academy’s technical director Robert Davis – for the camp was designed to hone a holistic range of tennis developmental aspects in a fun and interactive manner.
“We’ve got all these regional coaches with a wealth of experience from the regional pro tour, from the region, et cetera. What we’re doing is spreading it out, bringing in experts in strength and conditioning, in movement, sports psychology, and the like,” Davis told us.
Indeed, joining Davis in helming the camp are former Thai national star Thanakorn Srichaphan, Indonesian multiple SEA Games medallist Lavinia Tananta, as well as former Olympian – and fitness coach to top doubles player Sania Mirza – Robert Ballard.
The camp runs from 24 to 30 October, and covers a range of topics that include the tactical, technical, physical, and mental. The programme includes sharing sessions by professionals, on-court activities, as well as off-court workshops.
Participants taking part in a stretching routine. Photo: Sport Singapore
“The greatest thing that the kids can take away is to understand that playing great tennis is more than just about being able to hit a ball. You need to get to the ball to hit the ball. We’re teaching them the physical characteristics of tennis. And then we have the off-court activities for them to learn how to adapt in different situations. It’s like baking a cake. You need all the right ingredients,” explained Ballard, who leads the youths’ fitness and conditioning sessions.
Participants in action on the court. Photo: Sport Singapore
“Usually I only play tennis during training. We don't have many talks. When [the sports psychologists] asked about our pre-serve routines today, I realised that I don't really have one. I think it’s important to concentrate on other aspects of our development,” concurred camp participant Joelle Goh, one of Singapore’s top junior tennis players.
It is, perhaps, also of note that this camp is being held in place of the SEA Juniors tennis tournament, which was held here in 2014 and 2015. Expressing that it was a good chance for the region’s players to learn and bond in a more relaxed and non-competitive setting, the coaches emphasised the significance of such camps.
“It’s important to build on their strengths and minimise their weaknesses. Here, the camp is able to tap into these areas where we can help them improve as holistic players. They’ll then be able to work on these further when they get back home,” revealed Ballard.
Thanakorn agreed: “It’s not just about competing all the time. Sports is a learning process, and competition is just one part of it. There are many other parts that are important to a tennis player.”