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Improving Early Adolescent Girls’ Motor Skill: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: December 2017 - Volume 49 - Issue 12 - p 2498–2505
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001382
Applied Sciences

Background Physical activity (PA) levels decline substantially during adolescence and are consistently lower in girls. Competency in a range of fundamental movement skills (FMSs) may serve as a protective factor for the decline in PA typically observed in adolescent girls; yet, girls’ mastery in FMS is low. Although interventions can improve FMS, there is a lack of interventions targeting girls, and very few are conducted in high schools. In addition, interventions are usually conducted by researchers, not teachers, and thus have little chance of being embedded into curricula.

Purpose This study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of a school-based intervention, delivered by teachers, in improving adolescent girls’ FMS.

Methods Four all-girls Australian secondary schools were recruited and randomized into intervention or control groups. In total, 190 year 7 girls (103 control/87 intervention; mean age, 12.4 ± 0.3 yr) completed baseline and posttest measures at 12 wk. Six FMS (i.e., catch, throw, kick, jump, leap, and dodge) were measured using the Victorian FMS Assessment instrument. Mixed models with posttest skill (i.e., locomotor, object control, and total skill) as the outcome, adjusting for baseline skill, intervention and control status, and relevant covariates, as well as accounting for clustering at school and class level, were used to assess the intervention impact.

Results There were significant intervention effects, and large effect sizes (Cohen d) noted in locomotor (P = 0.04, t = 5.15, d = 1.6), object control (P < 0.001, t = 11.06, d = 0.83), and total skill (P = 0.02, t = 7.22, d = 1.36).

Conclusions Teachers adequately trained in authentic assessment and student-centered instruction can significantly improve the FMS competency of early adolescent girls. Therefore, comprehensive teacher training should be viewed as an integral component of future school-based interventions.

Supplemental digital content is available in the text.

1School of Education, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria, AUSTRALIA; 2PRC in Physical Activity and Nutrition, Faculty of Education and Arts, Newcastle University, Callaghan, New South Wales, AUSTRALIA; 3Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, Deakin University, Burwood Hwy, Burwood, Victoria, AUSTRALIA; and 4School of Health and Social Development, Deakin University, Burwood Hwy, Burwood, Victoria, AUSTRALIA

Address for correspondence: Natalie Lander, Ph.D., Deakin University, 221 Burwood Hwy, Burwood VIC 3125, Australia; E-mail:

Submitted for publication February 2017.

Accepted for publication June 2017.

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© 2017 American College of Sports Medicine