A skills clinic pilot project that may be the first of its kind in Canada has been launched in Hay River to use table tennis to improve the eye-hand co-ordination and reaction time of hockey goalies.
The clinic began on Feb. 23 and will run to April 4 on Friday evenings and Saturdays for a total of six weeks.
“It is so great to see it all unfold,” said Thorsten Gohl, executive director for Table Tennis North, who created the clinic.
“The goal for table tennis is to enhance the skills of any athletes, support them, give them the tools, experiences and crazy out-of-the-box fun ideas in becoming amazing human beings and role models for our communities,” he said in a news release. “Honestly, it can be that simple.”
The unique clinic has a number of other goals.
“For me, it’s about the NWT first to see if we can do this with goalies that we have, and increase their skills for the Arctic Winter Games and Canada Games,” Gohl told The Hub. “And then hopefully other people will love the idea and then we’ll expand to other regions, as well.”
The seven participating goalies — all from Hay River — range in age from 10 to 16 years.
The project began with an evaluation of the goalies. Tests on and off ice identified their reaction time, their eye-hand co-ordination and their overall fitness.
A specialized training program includes footwork drills within small spaces, reaction time training, and challenges in hockey goalie gear. All the athletes will receive a hockey jersey, as well as professional table tennis equipment to support them in performing their best.
The table tennis sessions started on Feb. 25 with an assessment and the basic knowledge of the sport, including how to hold the racket, the rules of the game and how to move.
“This initiative by Table Tennis North is a great example of co-operation between sports,” said Adham Sharara, president of Table Tennis Canada, in a news release. “Table Tennis Canada thanks Thorsten Gohl for creating and implementing this creative project.”
Along with Table Tennis North and Table Tennis Canada, the project also involves Hockey NWT, Hockey North, Hay River Minor Hockey and the Ottawa-based Sport Information Resource Centre (SIRC).
“We love when things like this happen for our players and we look forward to building relationships and working more closely with other territorial sport organizations to help maximize the benefits and work towards common goals for all athletes in the NWT,” said Pennie Pokiak, the president of Hay River Minor Hockey, in a news release.
The Hay River Community Centre will host the project, offering its table tennis area and arena ice for various aspects of the skills clinic.
The project is being financially supported by the federal government and the Mackenzie Recreation Association.
High-speed cameras will collect data for the research component of the project. The research team at SIRC will evaluate the program and offer the findings to the sports community.