The NSW Institute of Sport’s Research Coordinator, Sera Dogramaci, recently completed a research study into The Use of Simulation Training to Accelerate the Rate of Forward Ice Skating Skill Acquisition. The study has since been published in the International Journal of Kinesiology and Sports Science.
We caught up with Sera to discuss her findings in relation to this study.
What is simulation training?
Simulation training is a practice method designed to replicate the movements or environments associated with the context it is attempting to emulate.
Simulation training in sporting contexts helps athletes develop necessary skills that can be transferred into competition, thus improving the proficiency of skill execution and reducing error.
What are some different types of simulation training methods?
There are a myriad of different simulation training methods. For example, ball projection machines that replicate ball trajectories in sports such as cricket, volleyball and tennis which can increase skill acquisition and execution.
Furthermore, motorsport employs virtual simulators to enhance the driver’s decision making skills, thus decreasing the risk of accidents and track hiring costs.
Why did you choose to apply this study to the sport of ice hockey?
Australia’s interest and participation in ice hockey is increasing, however a lack of access to facilities means familiarity with this sport is limited, and so too is the facilitation of skill development within an ecologically valid context i.e. the lack of snow and ice in Australia.
Australia is currently ranked 36th in the world for men and 29th for women, and it is limited to just 10 indoor rinks for 4264 players (426.4 players per rink). Conversely, the number one ranked nation for both men and women, Canada has 2631 indoor and 5000 outdoor rinks for 721,504 players (94.5 players per rink).
What was the objective of your study?
The objective of the study was to see if we could improve skating speed and technique off the ice. Whilst plenty of equipment has been designed for this purpose, the Stridedeck Treadmill (SDT) was available to NSWIS.
If this study was proven to be successful, it would greatly enhance one aspect of the game, being forward skating. It would also encourage athletes to train specific skills off the ice that would support the performance of athletes with limited access to rinks in Australia,
What methods did you use in your study?
Nine junior league athletes were assigned to the training intervention (SDT), while the control group of seven athletes continued their normal weekly training routine.
To test if SDT had any effect on their skating performance, the athletes underwent on ice sprint tests every four weeks to track their progress and observe any improvements that may have occurred. To determine if SDT is a viable skating training apparatus, a biomechanical comparison was implemented to assess kinematic differences between strides on the SDT and sprint test protocols.
What did you find as a result of your study?
The aim of the study was to assess whether the SDT improved ice skating performance and the outcome was measured based on improvements in forward ice skating sprint times.
While there were no significant improvements in skating performance pre and post sprint tests, there were kinematic trends for post-SDT and post-ice conditions. However, this demonstrated that the SDT did not sufficiently contribute to enhanced sprint skating ability.
While there were no significant findings for sprint time, there were significant kinematic differences between medial and lateral angles as well as ankle flexion for all sessions when comparing skating surfaces. This demonstrated movement patterns on the SDT did not reflect that of skating on ice; this may be due to the changes in the body mechanics associated with high skating velocities.
The SDT did not allow for a glide phases of skating to occur compared to that of on-ice skating, which disrupted the athlete’s movement patterns.
What are your conclusions from the study?
Overall, the SDT in its current form did not provide a suitable platform for skill development as the skating mechanics on both the SDT and on the ice were significantly different.
When considering motor control, coaches and trainers need to emphasise that practice conditions match test conditions as closely as possible, thus leading to an increase in performance in the latter. This is true in simulation training studies where transfer of skill acquisition from a training environment to real life environments are evident due to the familiarity in neuromotor processes, decision making and correct skill execution volume.