Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Physical Education

First Advisor

David Stodden


A major purpose of the motor learning and motor control literature is to provide principles and theories (e.g., speed-accuracy trade-off) that can inform the instruction of young learners in motor skill competence. To be optimally effective, these principles and theories must be understood and applied in relation to authentic instructional contexts, complex motor patterns, and specific developmental levels of young learners. It is insufficient, for instance, to generalize research results with adults learning simple movements in controlled laboratory settings to an understanding of how children learn from fundamental movement skills in physical education classes. Based on this premise, the work presented herein focuses on several limitations to the knowledge base on impulse-variability theory and the speed-accuracy trade-off. Specifically although an established research literature with adult learners has develop to test fundamental principles within both perspectives, little is known regarding the applicability of these principles to children learning multijoint ballistic skills, which are commonly taught in schools. Therefore, two studies conducted to examine impulse-variability theory and the speed-accuracy trade-off as they relate to children learning overarm throwing and kicking. In the first study 45 children ages 9 to 11 (mean age= 10.7 years; 21 girls) performed a total of 40 throwing trials at 45%, 65%, 85%, and 100% of their maximum speed at a target. Results indicated no statistical significance with either variable error or spatial error, failing to support either impulse-variability theory or the speed-accuracy trade-off. In the second study, 43 children ages 9 to 11 (mean age= 10.7 years, 19 girls) kicked a ball at 45%, 65%, 85%, and 100% of their maximum speed at a wall target. Results indicated a U-shaped relationship with variable error, where the participants were less variable at the 65% target speed condition compared to maximum speed, failing to support impulse-variability theory and findings in adult kicking performances (Chappell et al., in press). A statistically significant inverse linear relationship was indicated with the spatial error were the mean radial error of the speed bandwidths of <59%, 60-69%, and 70-79% of maximum speed were greater than the >90% bandwidth of maximum speed. These results are inconsistent with the tenants of the speed-accuracy trade-off. Overall, findings suggest that variability and accuracy of multijoint ballistic skills performance in children fail to support general movement principles (i.e., speed-accuracy trade-off and impulse-variability theory). Therefore, current policy and practice of physical educators and coaches related to instructional emphases may need to be re-evaluated.