Table Tennis training enhancing reaction time and hand-eye coordination for hockey goalies
Fort Providence, Northwest Territories, September 6, 2021 – Table Tennis North is releasing the results of a six-week pilot program in the Northwest Territories, which combined skills from two sports; table tennis and hockey. 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 (Côté & Vierimaa, 2014; LaPrade et al., 2016). In addition, skills developed in one sport have the potential to transfer into other sports (Baker, Cobley, & Fraser-Thomas, 2009), 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 this 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,” said 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,” said Lee Cawson, VP Operations, Aurora Group. “We are looking forward to seeing this continue and other innovative projects come out of our partnership.”
The Sport Information Resource Centre (SIRC) was contracted to evaluate this pilot program. The purpose of this evaluation was to assess if, and to what to extent, the 6-week table tennis program increased participants’ hand-eye coordination and reaction time. A secondary purpose was to explore participants’ experiences in and perceptions of the program.
“This program offered a unique opportunity for young hockey goalies to develop their skills in a fun, creative and supportive learning environment,” said Veronica Allan, Manager of Research and Innovation at 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% after participating in the table tennis training program. Participants’ off-ice computer reaction time, on average, increased by 9.7% following the table tennis training program. On the final test, participants improved their on-ice save percentage by 15.8% following the table tennis training program.
“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,” added Jessica VanOverbeek, Executive Director Mackenzie Recreation Association.
Table Tennis North and its partners are excited to continue this program in 2022 and expand it to additional northern communities.
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.