Gill Myburgh has worked part-time on her PhD in the University’s Department for Health, alongside her role as Strength and Conditioning Coach for elite and emerging players at the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA). She has trained and overseen the Sport Science support for Johanna Konta, now in the Top 20 of the World Tennis Association Rankings, since 2014.
Myburgh is also the lead trainer for the Fed Cup team and has previously supported players including Heather Watson, Tara Moore and Anne Keothavong.
She has had two children while studying for her degree and is currently on maternity leave from the LTA.
Her PhD research has investigated the influence of physical maturity on the identification and development of elite youth tennis players selected into the LTA’s performance programmes. Boys and girls can vastly vary in their rates of growth and maturity during adolescence. Those that mature early are taller, quicker, bigger and stronger, giving them a significant advantage over their late maturing peers, who are often overlooked in the elite tennis selection process.
Myburgh’s research has showed potential benefits in periodically matching players by maturity status, rather than age, in training and competition. This process of grouping players according to their maturity level is known as bio-banding. It challenges those who are physically more advanced to develop additional skills as they can no longer solely rely on their physical capabilities. Importantly, it provides the opportunity to players delayed in maturity to showcase their skill level, without being hit off court.
Speaking ahead of her graduation Myburgh said: “I am thrilled to be receiving my PhD and I’m looking forward to celebrating with my young family. It has taken a lot of hard work to combine tennis training, research and family life but the study has been fascinating and I hope that it can lead to positive developments in the way we select and train our most promising young tennis players and increase their chances of success when transitioning from junior to senior stage. Graduating during Wimbledon week feels very fitting!”
Dan Lewindon, Head of Sport Science and Medicine at the LTA, said: “We are all hugely proud of Gill who has successfully been able to juggle the demands of working as a Strength and Conditioning Coach for our elite and emerging players and teams, whilst also completing her PhD and raising a family!”
Dr Sean Cumming, who supervised Myburgh’s PhD in the Department for Health, added: “The research that Gill has conducted has played a significant role in helping the LTA identify, understand and address some of the inefficiencies inherent within existing talent identification and development systems. Her findings have already informed practice and policy pertaining to the assessment and monitoring of growth and maturity in young tennis players; ensuring that the LTA can provide optimal opportunity and challenge for both early and late developers.”
The team has published their research in the Journal of Sports Sciences, Pediatric Exercise Science and has recently had an article accepted for Sports Medicine Open.
More than 3,500 students will graduate at the University’s Summer Award Ceremonies from 9-12 July.