Perceived sports competence mediates the relationship between childhood motor skill proficiency and adolescent physical activity and fitness: a longitudinal assessment

Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2008 Aug 8;5:40. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-5-40.


Background: The purpose of this paper was to investigate whether perceived sports competence mediates the relationship between childhood motor skill proficiency and subsequent adolescent physical activity and fitness.

Methods: In 2000, children's motor skill proficiency was assessed as part of a school-based physical activity intervention. In 2006/07, participants were followed up as part of the Physical Activity and Skills Study and completed assessments for perceived sports competence (Physical Self-Perception Profile), physical activity (Adolescent Physical Activity Recall Questionnaire) and cardiorespiratory fitness (Multistage Fitness Test). Structural equation modelling techniques were used to determine whether perceived sports competence mediated between childhood object control skill proficiency (composite score of kick, catch and overhand throw), and subsequent adolescent self-reported time in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness.

Results: Of 928 original intervention participants, 481 were located in 28 schools and 276 (57%) were assessed with at least one follow-up measure. Slightly more than half were female (52.4%) with a mean age of 16.4 years (range 14.2 to 18.3 yrs). Relevant assessments were completed by 250 (90.6%) students for the Physical Activity Model and 227 (82.3%) for the Fitness Model. Both hypothesised mediation models had a good fit to the observed data, with the Physical Activity Model accounting for 18% (R2 = 0.18) of physical activity variance and the Fitness Model accounting for 30% (R2 = 0.30) of fitness variance. Sex did not act as a moderator in either model.

Conclusion: Developing a high perceived sports competence through object control skill development in childhood is important for both boys and girls in determining adolescent physical activity participation and fitness. Our findings highlight the need for interventions to target and improve the perceived sports competence of youth.