|dc.description.abstract||Postural control underlies and constrains performance of fundamental movement skills (FMS) and the development of FMS is important for engagement in physical activity throughout the lifespan. Self-perceived physical competence has been shown to be positively correlated with motor skill competency and engagement in physical activity. It has been suggested that children navigate a critical period of perceptual motor-development between the ages of approximately 6 – 8 years of age. Practicing gymnastics within this critical window could provide children with enhanced postural control and potentially improved prospects of developing FMS. The primary aim of this thesis was to explore the effect that educational gymnastics and typical physical education had on postural control, self-perceived physical competence and FMS competency of children in a critical period of perceptual-motor development. A secondary aim was to explore the posited relationships between FMS performance, postural control and self-perceived physical competence. Furthermore, the research programme set out to identify the effect of gender and foot dominance on this triad of skill-related factors.
A nine-month longitudinal study with three phases of data collection was conducted to track the development of two groups of children (who were taught with either educational gymnastics-focussed lesson plans or with typical physical education lesson plans). Before the respective three-month courses of lessons began, all children (N=61) were invited to the laboratory for phase one of data collection and performed two physical tasks (static unipedal balance and kicking a ball at a target) and completed the modified athletic subscale of the Self-Perception Profile for Children (SPPC). Phase two of data collection was performed immediately after the intervention lessons and phase three of data collection was performed six months after phase two. For each testing phase children completed the same tasks as they did in phase one.
Static postural control was found to be similar between groups across the duration of the study except at phase three when the Gymnastics group balanced more successfully on the dominant foot. However, the Gymnastics group revealed modified centre of pressure (COP) kinetics over a shorter time frame (i.e., between phases one and two) compared to the TPE group who took at least six months to make significant changes to postural control strategies. In the dynamic postural control task, children in both groups tended to perform similarly across the duration of the study, except for the Gymnastics group females who outperformed their TPE group peers at phase three when kicking with the dominant foot. During kicking, directionally specific changes to degrees of freedom controlling postural sway were made by the Gymnastics and TPE groups across the duration of the study, and at the conclusion of the study the Gymnastics group used significantly different postural strategies and swayed over a larger area compared to the TPE group. Interestingly, at the conclusion of the study, the TPE group had higher self-perceived physical competence than the Gymnastics group, but, the Gymnastics group were more accurate in their assessment of physical competence.
The effects of educational gymnastics and typical physical education on static and dynamic postural control and self-perceived physical competence shared some similarities, but some clear differences were observed. It is suggested that children who practiced the dynamic activities in educational gymnastics were enabled to explore the perceptual-motor work space differently compared to children who practiced typical physical education. As the children progress though a critical period of perceptual-motor development that is known to increase performance and kinetic variability, those that were taught gymnastics seemed able to mitigate the potentially detrimental effects of being in this critical period. Results showed that the effects of gender and foot used to perform tasks were influenced by the group children were in. The findings of previous research supported were that females tended to have increased balancing abilities, and that performance differences between the dominant and non-dominant foot were not found in static balance but were significant in kicking. Results also suggest that educational gymnastics was influential in assisting children to make recalibrations to self-perceived physical competence that better reflected their actual competence whereas following typical physical education children tended to over-estimate their physical competence. The study has also shown that in addition to performance measures, non-linear kinetic analysis can be a valuable addition to assessment procedures used to understand trajectories of the perceptual-motor developmental of children.||