The Effectiveness of Infrastructure and Expertise on the Acquisition of Stickhandling and Puck Control Skills in Competitive Hockey Players
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The purpose of the study was to compare the effectiveness of two sport-specific training methodologies using a novel stickhandling and puck control (SPC) training device; physical practice (PP), and physical practice and observational learning (PP+OL), on skill acquisition and retention of SPC skills in competitive hockey players. Male (N=40), atom-aged (2005/2006 birth years), hockey players were recruited to participate and assigned to one of three groups; PP (n=16), PP+OL (n=15) and control (n=9). All groups completed one 50-minute familiarization session and two assessment sessions [pre-training (Apre) and post-training (Apost)] consisting of off- and on-ice assessments. The PP group received eight, 50-minute on-ice SPC training sessions. The PP+OL group received the same on-ice training, plus an additional 10-minute observational learning session before each on-ice session. Only PP and PP+OL completed a retention assessment (Aret) following a two-week period of no training. The off-ice assessment consisted of height (cm), weight (kg) and a modified Aggiss and Walsh (1986) coordination assessment (# of successful repetitions). The on-ice assessment consisted of two forward skating drills measuring execution time (s) and five SPC drills, measuring interval time (s), execution time (s) and execution competency. Execution competency was assessed on a 12-point scale for each device within each SPC drill by an expert rater. Multiple two-way mixed analysis of variance (ANOVA) revealed no significant interactions between groups in execution time or competency on any of the five SPC drills, combined overall total time (COTT) or total competency (COTC). Significant main effects of training were revealed across the three assessments for execution time on 3/5 SPC drills and COTT, and execution competency on 1/5 SPC drills. A Bonferroni post hoc revealed execution time for Apost and Aret were significantly faster than Apre for 2/5 SPC drills and COTT, and execution time for Apost was significantly faster than Apre for 1/5 SPC drills (p≤.05). The control group revealed no significant differences between Apre and Apost for execution time or competency. In summary, eight, 50-minute on-ice SPC training sessions elicited an improvement in execution time while maintaining competency, however, the combination of PP+OL did not reveal further training benefits.