In Australian rules football structured increases in ball size during development end with the transition to the Size 5 (adult) ball at the Under-15 age group. This study assessed changes in kick technique and performance in experienced junior performers when using Size 4 and 5 Australian rules footballs. Participants (n = 22, 13.77 ± 0.61 years) performed drop punt kicks in 2 representative tasks; a Decision-Making Test (DMT) (n = 14) and Set-Shot Test (SST) (n = 14 + 8). Results indicate participants sustained their level of kick performance (accuracy and quality of ball spin) in both tests when using a Size 5 football. Sustained kick performance in the DMT primarily resulted from adaptations to timepoint technical measures at ball release. No significant differences were detected for technical measures between ball sizes in the SST. A dynamic kicking task (DMT) in combination with ball size manipulation may have placed greater demand on skill execution in comparison to a self-paced kicking task (SST). Results provide initial support for the utility of challenging representative dynamic and self-paced tasks, such as the DMT and SST used here for Australian football, for skill testing and practice in sport.
Journal of Sports Sciences / Vol. Article in press