Comparison of Athlete–Coach Perceptions of Internal and External Load Markers for Elite Junior Tennis Training

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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To investigate the discrepancy between coach and athlete perceptions of internal load and notational analysis of external load in elite junior tennis.


Fourteen elite junior tennis players and 6 international coaches were recruited. Ratings of perceived exertion (RPEs) were recorded for individual drills and whole sessions, along with a rating of mental exertion, coach rating of intended session exertion, and athlete heart rate (HR). Furthermore, total stroke count and unforced-error count were notated using video coding after each session, alongside coach and athlete estimations of shots and errors made. Finally, regression analyses explained the variance in the criterion variables of athlete and coach RPE.


Repeated-measures analyses of variance and interclass correlation coefficients revealed that coaches significantly (P < .01) underestimated athlete session RPE, with only moderate correlation (r = .59) demonstrated between coach and athlete. However, athlete drill RPE (P = .14; r = .71) and mental exertion (P = .44; r = .68) were comparable and substantially correlated. No significant differences in estimated stroke count were evident between athlete and coach (P = .21), athlete notational analysis (P = .06), or coach notational analysis (P = .49). Coaches estimated significantly greater unforced errors than either athletes or notational analysis (P < .01). Regression analyses found that 54.5% of variance in coach RPE was explained by intended session exertion and coach drill RPE, while drill RPE and peak HR explained 45.3% of the variance in athlete session RPE.


Coaches misinterpreted session RPE but not drill RPE, while inaccurately monitoring error counts. Improved understanding of external- and internal-load monitoring may help coach–athlete relationships in individual sports like tennis avoid maladaptive training.

Murphy is with the School of Human Movement Studies, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, NSW, Australia, and Tennis Australia. Duffield is with the Sports and Exercise Discipline Group, UTS: Health, University of Technology Sydney, NSW, Australia. Kellett and Reid are with Tennis Australia, Melbourne, VIC, Australia. Address author correspondence to Alistair Murphy at