Reprogramming motor action in tennis: A methodological proposal  

Murgia M., Gherzil A., Crescimbeni M., Righi G., Agostini T.
First author's affiliation: MIS LAB, Department of Psychology, University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy

During sport activities it is often necessary to modify a motor action when it has already started and doing it efficiently requires cognitive-motor skills that are particularly developed in high level athletes. In the literature there are no studies about motor reprogramming in tennis and there are no psychological tools to assess it. In this work, we created an ecological experimental setting aimed to force a tennis player to modify his/her own action. We divided the bottom court area of the server in three sectors and participants had to return the service in one of these sectors. Each time the subjects were required to throw the ball in the sector that was indicated by a visual cue. The independent variable was the latency of cue presentation. Visual cue could appear before the service (baseline condition) or with a delay since the moment of the racket-ball impact in the service. We analyzed the response accuracy, measured as a capability to throw the ball in the right sector. We also controlled for both action time and service speed. Results suggest that expert tennis players can reorganize efficiently their action with a latency of 500 ms. This setting could be an useful tool for athletes screening and could be used to assess the training efficacy. Furthermore, the same setting could also be used as a training to improve reprogramming motor skills.