In this study, we examined the effectiveness of equipment scaling (tennis ball modification and court size) on beginner tennis player skill acquisition and associated psychological responses within a structured competitive development/participation programme. The participants' ability to rally and their stroke proficiency were recorded before and after a 5-week acquisition phase. Coupled to these dependent measures were within-practice session recording of hitting opportunities, resultant success, and the affective measure of session happiness. The participants who practised using a standard ball and standard court (adult constraints) were afforded a significantly poorer learning experience relative to the other ball/court scaling combinations. In particular, the adult standardized intervention group recorded significantly less hitting opportunities on the forehand and backhand side than the scaled-court intervention conditions. The decreased hitting opportunities experienced within the standardized adult condition then flowed into significantly poorer hitting success relative to the scaled court groups. The modified ball/scaled court intervention group rated their experience significantly happier than the standardized adult group. Discussion centres on the stronger learning effect generated by court scaling relative to the influence of ball type and the broader application of these findings to skill acquisition theory and practice.
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