Date of Award

Fall 2022

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Physical Education

First Advisor

David F. Stodden


As the development of complex coordination and control (i.e., motor development) involves the integration of neuromotor, psychological, social, and cognitive processes (i.e., executive functions), a better understanding of how these processes are embedded and manifest across stages of development throughout the lifespan is needed. The long-term processes associated with the acquisition and development of motor competence (MC), specifically, effortful practice and performance of various locomotor and object control skills, provide direct mechanisms for contributing to executive function (EF) development via different learning-related (e.g., synaptogenesis, hippocampal neurogenesis) as well as exercise-related (e.g., exercise-mediated neurogenesis, angiogenesis) mechanisms. However, traditional MC assessments use restrictive task protocols which limit cognitive involvement which effectively decontextualizes task performance. Recent MC literature has noted the role of motoric complexity, which has demonstrated stronger associations with cognitive performance. Specifically, motor-cognitive dual-task assessments afford moment-to-moment adaptations to coordination patterns (i.e., continuous decision-making) and empower individuals to regulate complex motoric and cognitive interactions within the individual-environment system via flexible and creative coordination patterns and strategies. Thus, the purpose of this dissertation was to examine performance levels in object projection (throwing speed vs throw-catch), locomotor (linear hop vs six-meter crossover hop), and functional coordination (supine-to-stand vs supine timed up-and-go) skills that represent different levels of task complexity within a convenience sample of Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (AROTC) Cadets and compare the predictive utility of performance in these skills with individual and composite EF performance, controlling for cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) levels. Skills with greater motoric complexity that require greater cognitive demands, demonstrated stronger associations with EF composite scores (r = -.434 – .280) compared to performance associated with more traditional skill assessments (r = -.286 – .167). In addition, HC-MC performance was a significant predictor of EF composite scores (R 2 = 0.28, F6,52 = 3.37, p = 0.007) when controlling for gender and CRF levels in this sample. These data provide preliminary evidence that when assessing the relationship between motor competence and executive functions, the level of gross motor complexity in assessments is an important factor to consider.


© 2022, Thomas Cade Abrams