Table tennis lessons sharpen hockey goalies’ performance on the ice, a limited experiment involving Northwest Territories youth suggests.
Table Tennis North partnered with a range of groups to establish a pilot program where seven goalies from Hay River minor hockey teams, aged nine to 15, took six weeks of table tennis training to improve hand-eye coordination and reaction time.
The Sport Information Resource Centre, which evaluated the program, reports participants’ off-ice hand-eye coordination and on-ice save percentage each improved, as did off-ice reaction time to a lesser extent.
“I thought that it would slightly improve my hand-eye coordination and reflexes, but it helped a lot, actually,” one participant is quoted as saying in the centre’s report.
The findings are preliminary in nature. Ordinarily, research to firmly establish a benefit such as this would involve a much larger pool of participants and a control group over a longer term.
However, the Sport Information Resource Centre said the initial study showed promise.
“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, the centre’s manager of research and innovation, in a news release.
“The findings of the evaluation put a spotlight on the early successes of the program and showed support for its expansion.”
Thorsten Gohl, Table Tennis North’s executive director, said: “Mixing games like table tennis and hockey is the quickest way to improve hand-eye coordination and reaction time in children and teenagers.”
Increasingly, sports scientists recommend that youth engage in a number of sports rather than focus exclusively on one.
Jessica VanOverbeek, executive director of the Mackenzie Recreation Association – which helps to fund access to sports in a range of NWT communities, and backed the pilot program – said the program demonstrated that “a multi-sport approach is the best way to enhance and develop physical literacy in individuals.”
Table Tennis North said the program would return in 2022 and expand to more northern communities.