Improving service skill in young tennis player: Experimental analysis on the efficacy of the use of video and audio models in training sessions  

Righi G., Ferletic E., Furlan D., Gherzil A., Galmonte A., Agostini T.
First author's affiliation: MIS LAB, Department of Psychology, University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy

Service skill is very important for tennis players. A professional training is often focused on the research of the best efficacy of the service. In young athlete the training for the improvement of the service skill is always based on the use of models: Usually, the athlete is shown a standard performance by the teacher or by another player. The use of self-modeling is also used as a strategy in tennis training: The athlete is shown her/his standard performance in a video tape before a training session. From a psychological point of view, the use of visual models suggest a question: Are visual models the best way to improve a motor skill, such as the tennis service? Experimental sport psychology research suggests the relevance of an acoustic representation of action as a model for the performance. Audio models of the sport performances are very important in the strategies based on the use of self-model. Results obtained by a systematic use of self-models based on a rhythmical acoustic representation highlight the strong standardization effect due to the use of this kind of models. We investigated the effect of the use of different kinds of self-models, where we manipulated the perceptual information available (visual, acoustic, visuo-acoustic) as a training strategy on 20 young tennis players engaged in a serve task (100 trials). Results show that there are significant differences in the learning rate among athletes trained with different kinds of models: The best result is obtained after acoustic stimulation, the worst one with a visual model, while the visual-acoustic model led to intermediate results. Therefore, data collected with the young tennis players confirm the evidence about the efficacy of the use of a self-model in a training based on acoustic stimulation. The effect of the strategies based on the acoustic models shows a strong tendency to the standardization of the timing of the performance.