GIRLS who develop ball skills at a young age will remain more co-ordinated than those who do not, according to a recent study.
In 2006, teachers at 18 preschools across NSW taught girls and boys specific ball and movement skills for a 10-month period while students at 13 other preschools were left to develop naturally.
The study, which assessed children's locomotor abilities (running, jumping and hopping) and object control abilities (kicking, throwing and bouncing a ball) at age 4, 5 and 8, found the girls who did the drills remained more co-ordinated for at least four years than those who did not.
"After the program, children aged five were assessed and it was found that both the object control and locomotor skills of boys and girls who were in the Preschool Program had improved," the study's co-investigator Avigdor Zask said.
"When the children were assessed at age eight, three years after the end of the program, we found program girls were still ahead in their ball skills compared to girls that had not had the program."
However, the boys who did not learn the drills eventually caught-up to their skilled counterparts.
"This shows that boys who do not have ball skills prior to school are likely to develop these skills through environmental opportunities provided during early primary school and/or from home and community life," Dr Zask said.
Tina Thompson of Ballina said her two children, Summer, 5, and Reid, 7, both developed ball handling abilities at a young age.
"My son has always been more naturally athletic but I wouldn't say he was better than Summer is at her age," she said.
"I can't see any major differences between them. They both go to the park and kick the soccer ball around with the same amount of gusto."
While the study suggests girls are the only sex to herald a lasting advantage from doing the drills at a young age, co-investigator Dr Lisa Barnett said boys may still enjoy benefits which the study did not assess, such as gaining "a higher perceived sports competence".
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