Multi-sport approach improves skills
Research shows that participation in multiple sports early in an athlete’s development can have benefits for young athletes, including fewer injuries, enhanced movement skills, and a greater likelihood of long-term sport participation. In addition, skills developed in one sport have the potential to transfer into other sports, which could improve overall sport performance.
With this research in mind Table Tennis North, Table Tennis Canada, Hockey NWT, Hockey North, and Hay River Minor Hockey came together to develop a pilot program. From February 23 to April 4, 2021, seven hockey goalies aged nine to 15 years old participated in a six-week table tennis training program in Hay River, Northwest Territories. The goal of the program was to improve the goalies’ hand-eye coordination and reaction time both on and off the ice.
“Strong hand-eye coordination skills are essential in most sports,” says Thorsten Gohl, Executive Director of Table Tennis North. “Mixing games like table tennis and hockey is the quickest way to improve hand-eye coordination and reaction time in children and teenagers. It keeps them balanced and works with reactions to determine reflex speeds.”
“It is exciting to be partnered with Table Tennis North and seeing innovative projects like this being put on. To be able to see first-hand how this pilot program was developed and see how engaged and excited the participants were was excellent,” says Lee Cawson, VP Operations, Aurora Group. “We are looking forward to seeing this continue and other innovative projects come out of our partnership.”
“This program offered a unique opportunity for young hockey goalies to develop their skills in a fun, creative and supportive learning environment,” says Veronica Allan, Manager of Research and Innovation at Sport Information Resource Centre (SIRC). “The findings of the evaluation put a spotlight on the early successes of the program and showed support for its expansion.”
On average, participants improved their off-ice hand-eye coordination by 20.5 per cent after participating in the table tennis training program. Participants’ off-ice computer reaction time, on average, increased by 9.7 per cent following the table tennis training program. On the final test, participants improved their on-ice save percentage by 15.8 per cent following the table tennis training program.
All participants stated that the program was fun, they improved some skills, and they feel more confident in their skills as a goalie after participating in the program. Participants valued the opportunity to develop new skills and work with specialized instructors, especially because these opportunities are harder to access in the North.
“A multi-sport approach is the best way to enhance and develop physical literacy in individuals, and Mackenzie Recreation Association was excited to support this innovative pilot project that brought together Hockey & Table Tennis to do just this,” adds Jessica VanOverbeek, Executive Director Mackenzie Recreation Association.
Table Tennis North and its partners want to expand and bring the program to communities in the Sahtu and the Beaufort Delta in 2022 and are also working on a virtual table tennis program for classrooms.
Table Tennis North is a not-for profit organization that supports, promotes and develops an active, healthy and fun environment with the sport of Table Tennis in the Northwest Territories.
Female Mentorship Program
Thorsten Gohl received the Coaching Association of Canada Impact Award in November 2021, which also highlights the Female Mentorship program that Thorsten Gohl has started and overseen since 2020, which brings coaches from the three Territories together to create a legacy of women’s leadership in communities through out the North. His mentorship program for female coaches and Hockey and Table Tennis program are designed to have a lasting impact in changing the sport landscape for young children, and in setting the stage for the next generation of women coaches.