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Young tennis players all want to be successful. They make certain efforts to play tennis and try to improve their tennis skills. The desire for success that youngsters have may be conscious in their mind or can be subconscious in their mind. But they are all driven to succeed by motivation. This motivation is called “Achievement Motivation”.

Achievement motivation is basic and is an important drive for all young tennis players for their training and competitions. Different achievement motivations result in different outcomes. It could be a good or bad outcome. It could even lead to the outcome of success or failure. Considering individuals’ motivational perspectives, there are two types of achievement goal orientations. One is Mastery Orientation (also called “Task Orientation”), another is Performance Orientation (also called “Ego Orientation”).

The tennis players with “mastery orientation” are interested in mastering their skills. Their focus is on improving their ability, and for them, success equals improvement. These players are self-referent, have a high curiosity in tasks and are always doing their best. The tennis players with “performance orientation” are mainly interested in the comparison of skills. Their focus is on proving their ability, and for them, success equals being better than others and winning. These players are other-referent and have a high interest in the comparison of themselves and others.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of both types of Goal Achievement Orientations

General speaking, a young tennis player who has focuses more on “mastery goal orientation”, is focused on learning, being patient and staying keen during training. If the player is over interested in mastering, it may lead him/her to focus more on the technical side of tennis, instead of thinking about tactics and strategies during match play. A young tennis player who has focuses more on “performance orientation”, is focused on comparing with others, wanting to compete, has low patience, and when losing during the match, gets easily frustrated and can lose confidence. These players pay more attention to rankings, seeds, match results, and so on.

For example, there are two 14 years old tennis players, Tony and Cathy. Tony is a highly competitive person. Winning seems to mean everything to him because he becomes very distraught if he loses a match. Instead of focusing on defeating her opponent, Cathy’s focus always seems to be on self-improvement and hard work.

Good understanding of achievement goal orientations is a great way to help young tennis players to be driven by a right achievement motivation during his or her tennis development. Thus, coaches and parents can guide the young tennis players to the right type of achievement goal orientation. Therefore, these players can stay motivated to be consistent in training and have a good attitude and mindset during competition and be realistic with the results of competitions. 

How do you keep the Right Achievement Motivation?

It is important for players, coaches and parents to understand the distinction between mastery (process focus) goals and performance (win focus) goals. Young tennis players must work hard to develop a mastery goal orientation to get into the ideal performance state and achieve peak performance.

1. Train young tennis players effectively according to growth stages of children.
From a developmental perspective, in different age groups, there are different achievement orientations. A child who is 2-6 years old views that if they continue to try hard, then they will have a successful outcome. At the age 6 or 7, the child begins to view perceived ability in terms of how other children perform. The child must now perform the task better than other children do. After the age of 11 or 12, the child may have either a mastery orientation or a performance orientation. But as the child matures, he or she may focus more on social comparisons. After the age of around 12, however, due to children’s life experience and personality characteristics, some young tennis players may mainly have mastery orientation, while others may mainly have performance orientation. Knowing where a child is in which type of achievement orientation, it will help coaches and parents to make efficient training plans and a good tennis activity schedule.

2. Promote or guide young players to have the right achievement motivation.
When young tennis players are in their tennis development phases, coaches and parents should guide and encourage young tennis players to be in a mastery-oriented learning environment. If young tennis players have strong mastery orientation during their talent development phases, this will effectively improve their training efficiency. If a child is focused more on performance orientation and is always comparing to others, it may cause the player to be anxious, have low confidence, have low resilience, have a lazy mood, etc. When the player is motivated by mastery orientation, the young player will feel competent with his or her ability to perform on the court after mastering certain skills of tennis.

3. Create an atmosphere conducive to the right achievement motivation for young tennis players.
Encourage the young player to grow into the self-training habit. Learning tennis skills by watching videos and hitting against a wall are essential ways to train young players to concentrate on self learning to cultivate mastery orientation. Parents can also guide young players while watching a real match on court, on TV, or on a video. This can help young ones focus more on the player’s tactics, strategies, and movement used on the court.

In conclusion, guiding young tennis players to the right achievement motivation is very important during youth talent development. If coaches and parents can correctly use the principle of achievement motivation and take advantage of young tennis players who either have mastery or performance orientation, or have both orientations, it will help to maintain a high level of training and at the same time, significantly help young tennis players to achieve good things in their trainings, and also in their competitions.

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