Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This research examined children's development of knowledge structure and sport performance in tennis. A knowledge test was designed to measure declarative knowledge and a serve and groundstroke skill test were developed to measure skill. An observational instrument was designed to record the components of performance for the serve (decision and execution) and game play following the serve (control, decision and execution). Phase 1 compared expert and novice tennis players within two age levels, 10-11 years-old and 12-13 years-old, on the individual components of tennis performance and on measures of tennis knowledge, serve skill, and groundstroke skill. Experts regardless of age performed better than novices on tennis skill and knowledge; experts' decisions and actions were better duing tennis game performance. Declarative knowledge was related to the development of procedural knowledge, whereas serve and groundstroke skill were related to the motor execution components of performance. In phase 2 verbal reports were used to assess the bases of decisions during game play. Point (during game play) and situation (after game play) interviews were used. The results were based on two measures of knowledge structure, i.e., what was stored (the total number, the variety, and the characteristics of concepts within condition, action, and goal concepts), and how it was stored (the number of connections between concepts and the linkages across and within condition, action and goal concepts). Experts as compared to novices, focused on higher level concepts, had more interconnections among these concepts, and had available a wider variety of condition and action concepts that were important to the goal structure of the game. Overall, the experts' greater decision-making ability during game play was directly related to their knowledge structure.