By Kayla Fujimoto Epperson, PT, DPT, CSCS
This year’s International Tennis Performance Association (iTPA) World Tennis Fitness Conference took place during a beautiful weekend in Atlanta, GA, and in conjunction with the start of the BB&T Atlanta Open. The conference was well attended by tennis coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, healthcare providers, and sports performance researchers.
Dr. Mark Kovacs, Executive Director of the iPTA, opened the conference taking time to remember and honor one of the iTPA’s most beloved members, Ollie Stephens, who lost his battle to cancer earlier this year. Ollie was very involved as a junior development coach, a master PTR professional, a USPTA professional, an iTPA MTPS, and member of the STMS. He is remembered for his passion for tennis and love for coaching as well as his unwavering determination during his cancer battle, reminding us that “attitude is a choice” we must make each and every day.
Conference Day 1 Recap
Day 1 started with a presentation by Dr. Aylin Seyalioglu on “Upper Extremity (UE) Assessment and the Most Common Treatment Recommendations for Tennis”. Dr. Seyalioglu is a physical therapist and athletic trainer who works with some of the WTA’s top athletes. Dr. Seyalioglu reviewed Dr. Ben Kibler’s assessment for scapular dysfunction and discussed the role the scapula plays in common UE injuries in tennis players. Her presentation provided an extensive review of optimal exercises for addressing the rotator cuff musculature and primary scapular stabilizers, which can be done on the road with little to no equipment. The emphasis was on assessing the entire kinetic chain when evaluating a player with an UE injury as many issues arise int he legs, trunk and pelvis which can affect the function force production from the UE. Our evaluation should be comprehensive and include assessment of the cervical and thoracic spine, lumbopelvic stability, hip mobility, breathing, and stroke mechanics.
Next, a panel of collegiate tennis and strength and conditioning coaches discussed how to manage and train the collegiate tennis player, taking into consideration history in the weight room prior to college, competition schedule, and off-season regimens. Tennis is a very unique college sport in that it is an individual sport played in a team environment, so it is important that all variables of a training program are tailored to the specific athlete. Communication is key amongst the players, coaching staff, strength and conditioning, and medical personnel.
Gil Reyes, lifetime trainer and mentor of Andre Agassi, followed with a candid discussion on his experiences working with professional tennis players and his stance on “Weak Legs Obey and Strong Legs Command”. He brought up an interesting point that “5 out of the top 10 ATP players are 6’6” or taller” so the serve game is changing. He posed the following question, "as performance coaches, are we addressing power and explosiveness appropriately?" Gil reminded us to be selective with exercise prescription as there are “exercises that demonstrate strength, and exercises that build strength”.
Dr. Mark Kovacs took the podium next to discuss his new Tennis Fitness Combine. Dr. Kovacs has been collecting data for over 20 years to determine normative values for tennis specific fitness evaluations based on age and competition level. He has compiled a series of simple, reliable, and reproducible tests that can be easily utilized by tennis and strength coaches to drive outcomes with their players. Historically, there has not been specific or standardized fitness assessments for tennis players leading to random results and a lack of robust data for comparison. Going forward, there is hope that tennis academies and training facilities will utilize the Tennis Fitness Combine to drive training programs in order to generate objective results.
Saturday concluded with a series of breakout sessions consisting of practical, hands-on demonstrations. The speakers shared their experiences working with tennis players of all ages and demonstrated sports specific exercises and assessments to improve tennis specific movement patterns.
· Dean Hollingworth, CTPS, MTPS – Exercises to Train Female WTA Players While on the Road
· Ted Borgerding, CTPS, MTPS – Dynamic Movement Training for Tennis
· Rachel Stuhlman, CTPS – The Top Ten Tennis Exercises for Junior Players
· Sean Drake, DC, CTPS – The RacquetFit Experience
Day 1 of the iTPA Tennis Fitness Conference was packed with outstanding speakers, knowledge and fun. Stay tuned for part 2 which covers Day 2 of the iTPA Tennis Fitness Conference. If you didn't get to join us this year, keep an eye out for this event for next summer!
Kayla Fujimoto Epperson is a Physical Therapist and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) in the Chicago Western Suburbs. She received her B.S. in Kinesiology with minors in Coaching, Fitness Instruction, and Psychology from Indiana University in 2014. While at Indiana, Kayla competed as a Division I tennis player. She earned her Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree from Northern Illinois University in May 2017. While at NIU, Kayla had clinical education experiences with Longshots Baseball in Darien, IL and Emory Sports Medicine in Atlanta, GA. Her clinical interests include injury reduction, management of the overhead athlete, youth sports specialization, and long term athlete development. She is a member of the American Academy of Sports Physical Therapy and STMS. Follow Kayla on Twitter @KaylaFuji_Eppy.