Sport has a long tradition at the University of Zagreb, ever since the 1960ies. Excellent results of Croatian athletes have been contributing to a greater popularity of sports activities and exercising among the students. Judging on the results of various opinion polls, taken in order to make and improve the practical curriculum of the PE, the majority of students choose the racket sports. A specific feature of Croatian universities, compared to other European universities, is the fact that the PE is compulsory for the first and second year students, and can be an optional subject later on. The PE at our university is very modern and attractive, and has a high educational value. The results of the students’ interests analysis confirm the popularity of racket sports among the students from faculties in Zagreb. Sports like tennis, table-tennis, badminton and squash are therefore implemented in the PE, as optional subjects. University of Zagreb has 60,000 students from all over Croatia, with different interests and different motor skills. Our approach enables every student to improve his or her skills in the sport of their interest. Curriculum model for tennis is based on theoretical part, practical motor skills and on game demand and is divided into 30 lessons per semester, or 60 lessons per one academic year. The theoretic part includes acquiring basic information about the history and development of tennis in Croatia and in the world, game rules and the main characteristics of this sport. The practical part refers to tests which are used for the evaluation of the achieved game level, and for determining the players’ quality based on the ITN system. This in turn enables students, who chose tennis, to evaluate their achievments under the mentorship of their teachers , and to compare their results in the beginning and in the end of the academic year.
Tennis is a sport which has a long tradition, rich history and many legendary players. It is popular world-wide, and very much so in Croatia. In the recent years, great Croatian tennis players have contributed to the popularization of this so called white sport. For example, the charismatic Goran Ivanisevic and his IV Congreso Mundial de Ciencia y Deportes de Raqueta victory at Wimbledon in 2001, Iva Majoli, Ivan Ljubicic, Mario Ancic and winning the Davis Cup in 2005. Tennis as a sport has a long tradition even at the University of Zagreb. Judging on the results of various opinion polls, taken in order to make and improve the practical curriculum of the PE, the majority of students choose the racket sports. A specific feature of Croatian universities, compared to other European universities, is the fact that the PE is compulsory for the first and second year students, and can be an optional subject later on. In the last couple of years, the Republic of Croatia has been putting a lot of emphasis on the quality of education, so many projects have been launched which are helping the adjustment to the European standards. Due to this, a new curriculum for PE on faculties was developed. Certain criteria had to be met and born in mind while developing this curriculum: 1. Students’ interests and needs 2. The appeal and attractiveness of PE (special programs) 3. Appropriateness to previous knowledge, abilities and skills acquired during elementary and high-school PE. 4. Adaptability to previous knowledge, abilities and health status, technical conditions and micro-environments, in order to implement the curriculum in a larger number of faculties. 5. Students’ safety during the execution of the program. The main objectives of PE in higher education were given special consideration, and these are the following: (1) acquiring new conventional motor skills, (2) perfecting basic theoretical and practical knowledge about kinesiology, (3) determining students’ interest, anthropological characteristics, and motor awareness, (4) preventing premature deterioration of abilities and motor skills, due to insufficient physical activity, (5) enabling students for individual independent trainings, (6) promoting the culture of sports, and (7) improving social communication. The results of the students’ interests analysis confirm the popularity of racket sports among the students from faculties in Zagreb. Sports like tennis, table-tennis, badminton and squash are therefore implemented in the PE, as optional subjects. University of Zagreb has 60,000 students from all over Croatia, with different interests and different motor skills in various kinesiologic activities. Our approach enables every student to improve his or her skills in the sport of their interest. This paper will present the basic features of tennis as a subject for first and second-year students, who chose tennis at the beginning of the academic year. We will also outline the modern approach to acquiring new practical tennis skills for students who play tennis for the first time as well as for the ones who have played it in the past.
2. University tennis curriculum
Curriculum model for tennis is based on theoretical part, practical motorical skills and game demand, and is divided into 30 lessons per semester, or 60 lessons per one academic year. 2.1. Theory knowledge The theoretical part includes acquiring basic information about the history and development of tennis in Croatia and in the world, game rules and basic terminology, and learning to choose the right equipment. 2.2. Practical knowledge The practical knowledge includes evaluation of the achieved game level, physical preparation, developing tactical skills and acquiring technical skills. a) Evaluating the achieved game level According to the new curriculum and program, after determining students’ interests, evaluation of the achieved game level based on the ITN (International Tennis Number) system is suggested; through a battery of standardized tests, one can categorize players based on their quality from ITN 1 to ITN 10. ITN1 is the high quality category (ATP/WTA ranking list), and ITN10 represents the starting quality category for the beginners. Within the ITN 10 category, three sub-categories (ITN 10.1, ITN.2 and ITN.3) have been developed in order to take account of those people who have started to play tennis but are not ready to play competitively on a full court with a normal ball. The progression from ITN 10.3 to ITN 10 will see these players (usually within their lessons) being helped to achieve a series of tasks using soft tennis balls on a smaller court, with the end objective (ITN 10) being a beginner that can serve /return/ rally on a full court using normal balls. Experience has shown that the best way for beginner players to learn tennis is through a modified version of tennis, mini tennis, which is played on a smaller than normal court with soft balls. Mini tennis helps starter players to get to rally and play the game of tennis as soon as possible which makes learning tennis easier and more enjoyable.(ITF, 2004). The main idea and the reason behind following and determining quality based on the ITN system, is to include more new players into tennis, organize competitions in which ITN categorization is used, finding the adequate partner and thus enjoying competition itself more. b) Physical preparation Efficient managing and control of the learning process, and the improvement of new skills and knowledge depend considerably on the level of the physical conditioning. Within the program of physical conditioning, one should distinguish between general physical preparation, which includes the preparation of the organism for the forthcoming exertions. This means improving functional and motor abilities. We also have specific physical preparation which includes the preparation of the organism in the way which would enhance the abilities which are needed for tennis. It is also based on exercises and activities which are biomechanical and close to tennis in terms of strain. Exercises used in the general and specific physical preparation program are: ? exercises for developing coordination, agility, speed, strength, aerobic and anaerobic stamina, flexibility, balance, and precision. ? exercises which are similar in basic technical movements and in the type of nervous and muscular strains ? exercises with elements of swift reaction ? compensatory exercises (corrective function) ? exercises directed to achieve psycho-social quality- motivation, communication, concentration, mental abilities and endurance when dealing with stress The situational physical preparation of the organism is performed through activities which are characteristic for tennis, on the tennis court through the game itself. The new curriculum envisages additional physical preparation for the advanced students, which would encompass many additional kinesiologic activities, for example certain athletics disciplines, sport games, and group fitness programs. All this is supposed to emphasize the attractiveness of the program. A lot of attention is given to tactical and technical elements, considering the prior knowledge and skills. c) tactical skills development Modern tennis teaching and learning is based on learning the game itself as fast as possible. (serving, returning, playing along the baseline, counting). It is very important to focus on all the possible situations that a player may find him/herself in, from the very beginning of training. Three most occurring tactical situations in tennis: a) serving and returning b) exchanging shots from the baseline c) charging the net, playing the net and passing, lobs Within these three tactical situations, players use many combinations to score a point d) technical skills – for the beginners: technical elements, roughly, include: holding and controlling the racket, basic tennis court moves, straight forehand and backhand, volley, smash, lob, straight serves. – for the advanced learners: technical elements include: spin shots, slice shots, drop shots, half volleys, jump smashes, top spin serve, doubles.
3. Teaching methods
1.Introducing a New Skill Acquiring new knowledge, i.e. technical and tactical information is based on the same regulatory process. Firstly, no matter which method is used for the process, beginners must understand the concept of movements. Physical educator can prepare students for being a beginner and can reinforce the idea that it is important to try things that they have not tried before, even if they may not be immediately successful. According to J. E. Rink (2004) «teach a motor skill, and the skill may be learned. Teach how to learn a motor skill, and many skills can be learned – even after a student leaves the school. One of the most important ideas physical educators can give to students about their own learning experiences is to help them feel comfortable in the role of a beginner. Today’s society bombards students with examples of elite performance.» Although the same author pointed out the most effective ways to teach the important concepts is to integrate them into the teaching of motor skills that are part of the curriculum. 2. Following the Introduction After the initial practice, the physical educator needs to challenge those students who are successful or unsuccessful with a task. For successful students to modify the task in some way, for unsuccessful students the educator needs to acknowledge that they are struggling and that it is okay to struggle. 3. Explaining the Learning Process Getting a clear idea of the movement is the first step to learning a motor skill. 4. Tracking the Progress of Learning One of the most effective ways to motivate students to understand how motor skill learning takes place is to take pre- and post- measures and having students record their progress. 5. Reflective Experiences If students are actually putting forth effort, that effort should result in improvements in performance. When educators can attribute student improvement to student effort, they are helping students to understand how they can get better at motor skills, and teaching them the relationship between effort and improvement. The abilities of transferring knowledge, organizing, motivating and enticing students are communication skills extremely important for the success of every teacher-trainer. The communication can be verbal, i.e. players learn by listening and answering the questions , or non-verbal (visual), i.e. information are communicated via demonstrations, body language, signals and gestures. ((Kako ljudi u?e, ITF,1998.g). Verbal instructions can be communicated in various ways: authoritatively, where teacher makes the decisions, gives advice and asks questions which make players think about their progress and understand what they’re actually doing. Teachers need to be able to communicate in various ways, and do it successively. For example, from authoritative way move on to asking questions. There are two types of questions: closed-end questions (students answer with “yes” or “no”) and open-end questions which require thinking and describing the events, and are used for comprehension check. .(Razli?iti na?ini komunikacije, ITF,2004.g.). Teachers-trainers have the most important role in motivating new players and retaining others who have already played tennis. It is also of utmost importance to combine creative and stimulating programs and enthusiasm, so that everyone can enjoy the game. The pre-supposition of learning is repetition of the movements and exercises, which should be done systematically with clearly defined objectives. Based on criteria for straining or burdening the students, 3 working methods are suggested: the continuing method, the method with intervals/breaks, and the situational method. The criteria for learning new motor skills impose the synthetic method, seldom the analytical one, and the combined method of work. The program suggests the three dominant organizational work forms: frontal, individual and group. Tracking and recording the training quality and the execution of the program will also be based on the analysis of anonymous polls after finishing with the program. And the evaluation of the work will be done with the same measuring instruments at the beginning and in the end of the academic year.
4. University tennis teams organisation
The University of Zagreb is Croatia’s oldest University which consists of 33 faculties. Sports associations are being organized on many faculties in order to promote sports, physical activity and more efficient free-time planning. Both students and teachers-trainers join these associations. They are further divided into sport sections, depending on students’ and teachers’ interest and working conditions. Given the tennis tradition in Croatia and great result in the last years, and the popularity of tennis in the academic community, many faculties within the University of Zagreb already have tennis sections and they organize competitions for students and teachers. At University of Zagreb tennis competitions are organized on the level of faculties, and the most successful ones take part at the University Championship and National University Championship. In the year 2004/2005, 19 male teams competed at the Championship, from 13 faculties, with 50 players and 10 female teams with 22 players.
This paper has focused on only a small part of the new curriculum for tennis for the university students. We have tried to present the new concept of the teaching and learning tennis within PE, at faculty level. The new curriculum is going to be applied the next academic year. The experience and the results of opinion polls so far, have shown that students are developing more interest for learning about kinesiology and individual kinesiologic activities. When creating the new PE curriculum for faculty level, certain criteria have been taken into consideration: students’ interest, attractiveness of the program, appropriateness to previous knowledge, abilities and skills, as well as the health status, and safety of the program. For the purpose of this conference, we have presented the proposal for the tennis program for beginners and for those who have played tennis actively during their elementary and high school education. The successful execution of the plan depends on the quality of teachers-trainers, working conditions, and a good cooperation between the faculties, tennis clubs and the Croatian tennis association Excellent sport results by Croatian tennis players have influenced the academic community and have contributed to popularization of the “white sport”. With the new tennis program we can influence the intrinsic motivation of the students, as well as the students’ interest in learning new tennis skills. We can also improve their abilities and skills needed to play tennis individually, for recreation, after their faculty education.
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