Young hockey goalies in N.W.T. tried table tennis to improve coordination. It worked

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Young hockey goalies in N.W.T. tried table tennis to improve coordination. It worked
© Thorsten Gohl/Table Tennis North Kamilah Gostick, a 15-year-old goalie in Hay River, N.W.T., was one of the young goalies who participated in a study conducted in the town last spring to help them with their reflexes.

A group of young hockey goalies traded in their gear for some table tennis paddles to join a research study designed to help them enhance their reflexes.

And for 14-year-old Deacon Tybring, who is one of seven goaltenders to participate, it worked.

“It improved my overall hand-eye coordination quite a bit,” said Tybring, who has been playing hockey for three years.

The study was conducted in Hay River last spring for six weeks and was conceived by Thorsten Gohl, the executive director at Table Tennis North in Fort Providence, N.W.T.

The program combines table tennis and hockey to improve hand-eye coordination and reaction time.

Gohl got the idea when he was watching a recreational hockey game and thought his organization could help young goalies improve their game.

“When we pitched the idea to other people that are in hockey, they said, ‘Yeah, why not? It’s always beneficial to do extra things,'” he said.

The participants aged nine to 15 were coached through a variety of table tennis drills and games for balance and reflexes.

Gohl says it was challenging at first to get going.

“Thinking as a hockey goalie, none of the people from table tennis had any idea what that means, like angling and so on,” he said.

Gohl said a fun exercise they tried included playing with one hand and then catching with the other hand.

“That was a great way to increase the reaction time to increase just eye-hand coordination,” he said.

The Sport Information Resource Centre, a national organization that shares new sports knowledge through workshops and conferences, evaluated the program.

Early findings showed that on average, participants improved their off-ice hand-eye coordination by 20.5 per cent. Off-ice computer reaction time, on average, increased by 9.7 per cent. On the final test, participants improved their on-ice saves by 15.8 per cent following the table tennis training program.

Program hoped to start in Sahtu and Beaufort Delta regions by 2022

Tybring says he saw a change in his performance and he encourages other players to try it out.

“I saw the most changes like being able to get the puck in the glove, but being able to do it faster. So being able to react quicker to certain shots that I maybe wouldn’t have been able to do that quickly before,” he said.

Gohl would like to see more multi-sports approaches because he thinks it can benefit athletes.

“It’s great that our kids learn table tennis and we can enhance their lives, experiences and skills. But other sports can do that, too. And hopefully this is a starting point for all sports coming together more and more,” he said.

Table Tennis North wants to bring the program to communities in the Sahtu and the Beaufort Delta in 2022 and are working on a virtual table tennis program for classrooms.

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