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Beyond athletic development: The effects of parkour-based versus conventional neuromuscular exercises in pre-adolescent basketball players
Williams, M. K., Hammond, A., & Moran, J.
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The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of a parkour-based warm-up to a conventional neuromuscular training (NMT) warm-up on the athletic capabilities of youth basketball players. This was examined through two arms: In Investigation 1, the aims were to measure the effects of the two warm-ups on physical measures of athletic performance in prepubescent basketball players. Using post-intervention semi-structured interviews, Investigation 2 aimed to gain insights from the players in relation to the perceived benefits of the two warm-ups. Pre-adolescent children were recruited from two youth level basketball teams. Participants from one club were randomly assigned to either a conventional NMT warm-up group or a parkour warm-up group, while a control group was formed of participants from the second club. Participants of both experimental groups were required to complete a 15-minute warm-up once per week before their regular basketball practice across 8-weeks. For both groups, the coach adopted the same pedagogical approach, utilising a guided discovery strategy. Pre-post test measures of overhead squat performance, countermovement jump, and 10-metre sprint speed were recorded in all three groups. Additionally, pre-post measures were recorded for a timed parkour-based obstacle course for the two experimental groups. No significant between-group differences were found between pre- and post-test measures. However, analysis using Cohen's d effect sizes revealed improvements in both intervention groups versus the control. Moreover, between group effect size differences were observed between the two experimental groups. Following the intervention, participants from both experimental groups were also invited to take part in a post-intervention semi-structured interview to discuss their experiences. The thematic analysis of these semi-structured interviews revealed three higher order themes: Enjoyment; Physical literacy; and Docility; of which the two former themes appear to align to constructs relating to the wider concept of physical literacy. In summary, warm-ups designed to improve athleticism can include less structured and more diverse movement skills than are typical of conventional NMT warm-ups. Specifically, we provide evidence that advocates for warm ups that include parkour-related activities alongside conventional NMT exercises to preserve physical fitness qualities and to simultaneously evoke a sense of enjoyment, fun, and purpose. The benefit of such activities may extend beyond athletic development and, more broadly, contribute to the development of physical literacy.
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