Purpose: This is the first study to use the quiet eye (QE) as an objective measure of visuomotor control underpinning proficiency differences in children's motor coordination.
Methods: Fifty-seven, year 5 primary school children (9-10 yr old) completed the Movement Assessment Battery for Children, Second Edition (MABC-2), while wearing a gaze registration system. Participants were subsequently divided into one of three ability groups: high motor coordination (HMC), median motor coordination (MMC), and low motor coordination (LMC) based on these MABC-2 scores (mean % rank: HMC = 84%, MMC = 51%, LMC = 19%). QE analyses were performed for the fourth task of the MABC-2, which involved throwing a tennis ball against a wall and catching it on the return.
Results: The HMC group was more successful in the catching task than both other groups (catching percentage: HMC = 92%, MMC = 62%, LMC = 35%) and demonstrated superior visuomotor control throughout the throwing and catching phases of the task. Compared with the other groups, the HMC group demonstrated longer targeting QE fixations before the release of the ball (HMC = 500 ms, MMC = 410 ms, LMC = 260 ms) and longer tracking QE durations before catching (HMC = 260 ms, MMC = 200 ms, LMC = 150 ms). There were no significant differences in ball flight time between the groups. Mediation analyses revealed that only the duration of the tracking QE predicted group differences in catching ability.
Conclusions: Findings suggest that the ability to predict and calibrate movements based on sensory feedback may be impaired in children with movement coordination difficulties and have implications for how they are taught fundamental movement skills.