Quiet eye refers to the duration of the final fixation on a target prior to executing a skill. In sport, the quiet eye period consistently differentiates between skilled and less skilled athletes, and even between successful and unsuccessful performances. Not surprisingly, training quiet eye has proved to be an effective strategy for improving sport skills.
In a unique contribution to the literature, quiet eye training was investigated in children with developmental coordination disorder (DCD).
DCD is characterised as a significant impairment to motor coordination, thereby interfering with daily activities. It affects approximately 6% of children.
Greg Wood and colleagues conducted a randomised controlled trial to examine the effect of quiet eye training on throwing and catching in children with DCD.
21 children aged 7 to 11 years were randomly divided into 2 groups:
- Technical training. Children were instructed about throwing and catching technique (e.g., “Concentrate on the ball and cup your hands together”)
- Quiet Eye training. Children were instructed to maintain focus on the target in addition to being instructed about throwing and catching technique (e.g., “keep your eyes on the ball until it comes back into your cupped hands”).
All children completed four 1 hour sessions of training over 4 weeks. Training included a variety of throwing and catching activities, such as throwing and catching beanbags.
Skill was assessed before and after the training, including a 6 week follow-up retention test. The skills test required children to throw a ball against a wall and then to catch the rebound.
- Children in the quiet eye training group improved gaze control (longer quiet eye) more than children in the technical training group.
- Children in the quiet eye training group improved catching technique (assessed subjectively) more than children in the technical training group.
- Children in the quiet eye training group improved catching success by 51%. Comparatively, children in the technical training group improved by 31%. However, the difference between the groups was not statistically significant.
- Longer quiet eye duration predicted earlier onset of tracking the ball, which predicted catching success.
Instructing children to maintain focus on a target is an effective strategy for improving motor skills for children with DCD. Importantly, the improved skill was maintained 6 weeks after the training ceased.
Also, as highlighted by the authors: “DCD should be considered as impaired motor proficiency rather than a fundamental inability to learn motor skills”. Hence, practitioners working with children with DCD should seek to adopt strategies to improve motor skills. And quiet eye training is likely to be an effective starting point.