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In adult performers, research suggests that mental representations (MRs) mediate performance of skilled movement. During adolescence, cortical brain areas responsible for generating MRs develop rapidly along with limb size, which, together, may affect movement and movement representations. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between adolescent MRs and free-throw shooting expertise. Using structural dimensional analysis of MRs, skilled (n = 11) and less skilled (n = 11) participants sorted free-throw submovements according to their relatedness in movement execution. Data were analyzed using a hierarchical cluster analysis, factor analysis, and invariance test to examine between-group cluster comparisons. Cluster solutions for the skilled and less skilled participants were significantly variant (λ = 0.56). This method of measuring MRs distinguished expertise-related differences in MRs in an adolescent population. Findings may influence methods in which practitioners detect motor-planning faults, track development, and provide feedback to trainees.
England, Brusseau, Burns, Newton, and Thiese are with The University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA. Koester is with Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany.