Evaluating Motor Skills

Evaluating Motor Skills Thumb

Evaluating Motor Skills

Although athletic skill and general motor skill are not necessary to be physically fit, some enjoy evaluating motor skills to test abilities. This article will address three motor skills and how to go about evaluating motor skills.

General motor skills generally refers to one’s level of ability in a wide range of physical activities. Speed, power, balance, agility, reaction time and coordination are the traits identified with motor skill performance.

In a successful performance, these skills blend into a single effective movement, such as stroking a tennis ball. The movement may be quite complex. For example, hitting a fore-hand in tennis involves three moving factors.

  1. The ball.
  2. The body (feet).
  3. The racquet.

Integration of motor abilities in a coordinated manner leads to graceful movement.

The skills involved in each sport are quite specific. Success in one activity does not necessarily mean equal success in another. It is impossible to measure all the specifics of complex physical activities.

An acceptable alternative has been to sample some of the specific traits involved in athletic performance to assess one’s general motor fitness. A person who scores well on a motor skill test usually has the potential for successful performance in a sport in which he or she receives instruction and practice. Tests of motor ability may reflect a person’s potential to perform well in specific sports.

The tests recommended here do not examine all the traits related to general athletic ability. However, the agility run, 20-yard dash, and vertical jump have emerged as excellent indicators of agility, speed and power.

Again, based on the time needed to perform these tests and ease of administering and scoring them, these tests are practical tools for getting a sense of your general athletic ability. At the end of this there is a chart with which you can rate your performance on these tests.

Evaluating Motor Skills with the Agility Run

Agility Run
Agility Run

Purpose: To measure the ability to move with quickness, speed and balance.

Procedure: Start by lying face down with your head behind the starting line and your arms flexed and hands placed just outside your shoulders. On the command “go” (the stop watch starts), jump to your feet and run as fast as you can to the end line, a distances of 30 feet.

Turn around as one foot touches or crosses the end line and then sprint back to the starting line. Then weave in and out around four chairs or boxes spaced 10 feet apart to the end line.

Turn and weave back through the chairs (in the opposite direction) to the starting line. You then sprint to the end line, touch or cross it with your foot, and turn and sprint past the finish line.

The time necessary to complete the run is recorded to the nearest tenth of a second. A wet towel may be provided so you can wipe your feet before the run. This allows better traction during the run.

Improper Procedures

  • Not touching the lines at each end.
  • Touching or accidently touching the chair.
  • Not following the prescribed course.
Diagram for Agility Run
Diagram for Agility Run

Evaluating Motor Skills with the 20 Yard Dash

20 Yard Dash
20 Yard Dash

Purpose: To measure speed.

Procedure: Mark off 20 yards on the gym floor.

Have your partner stand at the finish line with a stop watch in raised hand.

As he or she drops the raised hand, the stop watch is started.

Start running as you see the hand begin to drop.

Sprint as fast as you can to the finish line.

The time it takes to complete the dash is recorded to the nearest tenth of a second.

Record the fastest of three trials.

Improper Procedure: Jumping the signal start.


Vertical Jump

Vertical Jump
Vertical Jump

Purpose: To measure the power and explosiveness of the body.

Procedure: Face the jumping board or wall and stand slightly in front of it with your feet flat on the floor and both arms fully extended over your head. Have a partner note the point where the extended tips of the middle fingers touch the board.

Now turn so that a side of your body is to the jump board. Without moving your feet (you are not allowed to step into the jump), take a deep squat and jump, touching the board as high as possible with the fingers nearest the board. After a brief rest, try a second jump.

Record the greatest distance obtained between your standing reach and your jumping reach, to the nearest half inch.

Improper Procedures

  • Not measuring a true standing reach.
  • Moving the feet in preparation to jump.

Your Performance

You may find that you are not satisfied with your performance on these motor skill tests. In general, after some exercise training, it is easier to improve on the basic exercise tests than on tests of athletic skill. However, with some specific motor skill exercises you can become faster, more agile, and more explosive.

Use your test results as a starting point. Keep in mind that having a high level of motor skill is not necessary for being physically fit. However, improving on some of these traits can help you better enjoy a variety of sports and recreational activities.


Evaluating Motor Skills
Evaluating Motor Skills


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Author: Jeni

Certified by the Professional School of Fitness and Nutrition in March, 1995; honored for exemplary grades. Practicing fitness and nutrition for over 20 years. Featured in the Feb. 1994 issue of "Shape" magazine. Featured in Collage in the spring issue of 1995 Low fat recipe's published in Taste of Home, Quick Cooking, and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, among others. September, 2001: Featured in "Winning The War on Cholesterol" By Rodale Publishing

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