A pilot tennis program for training fitness and social behaviors in individuals with autism spectrum disorder

J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2022 Aug;62(8):1118-1126. doi: 10.23736/S0022-4707.21.12414-4.


Background: The aim of this pilot study was to determine the effectiveness of a tennis-training program for individuals with autism spectrum disorder.

Methods: The program consisted of 12 lessons delivered over a 6-week time frame that incorporated tennis-specific abilities (i.e. forehand, backhand, rallying) with targeted autism skills (social skills, reception skills).

Results: In this study, (N-=15) participants showed significant improvements in a variety of tennis-related skills including ready position, side-shuffle, forehand, backhand, volleys, and rallying. Additional advancements were observed on hand-eye coordination (catching balls with one-hand) and leg strength (long-jump) using a structured fitness assessment. Lastly, participants demonstrated improvements in social skills, receptive communication skills, and reception skills from pre-training to -post.

Conclusions: The results of this study highlight the potential of tennis training as a valuable element of autism therapeutic programs, enabling participants to train motor and social skills in a fun, recreational setting.

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / therapy
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Pilot Projects
  • Social Behavior
  • Tennis*