13 April 2021
This study investigated developmental stability, or tracking, in the development of technical skills in youth male basketball players and retrospectively profiled stable and unstable tracking patterns over time. A total of 97 basketball players were tracked bi-annually over 3 consecutive years. Players were divided into two age-categories according to their age at baseline: under-12; and under-14. Technical skills were assessed using the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance test battery. Anthropometric, body composition, biological maturation and physical performance data were collected. Cohen’s kappa (κ) was used to estimate tracking. With the exception of defensive movement in the under-12 age-category, tracking was low in all skill tests for both under-12 (0.22 ≤ κ ≤ 0.33) and -14 (0.20 ≤ κ ≤ 0.26) groupings. The overall technical skill showed moderate tracking for under-12 players (κ = 0.47) and low tracking for under-14 players (κ = 0.26). At baseline, players who were consistently more skilled or became more skillful (in the under-12 age-category) over time had a better growth-motor performance profile and most of them were selected to be members of regional teams. In conclusion, tracking of individual skill trajectories was low-to-moderate. Moreover, a better growth-motor performance profile seems crucial to maintain high levels of skill performance over time. It is recommended that basketball coaches track the developmental trajectories of their players to better understand the erratic nature of skill development and help design more effective practice regimes.