The intriguing hockey research laboratory at UQTR

Last week, I took a short trip to Trois-Rivières to visit the UQTR hockey research laboratory. It is the only entity of its kind that exists in Quebec and one of the few in Canada.

This visit allowed me to spend a few extremely interesting hours in the company of Jean Lemoyne. This professor and head of the department of physical activity sciences is discreetly in the process of building a center of knowledge that will eventually play, for sure, a major role in the world of Quebec and Canadian hockey.

Readers of this column have already heard of the UQTR hockey research laboratory. A little over a year ago, we highlighted the conclusions of a study revealing, to everyone’s surprise, that young Quebec hockey players who specialize too quickly in the practice of their sport are those who in the so-called recreational categories.

Specialization in sport is a scourge among young people because it causes early abandonment of physical activity. In contrast, children who play multiple sports become more proficient, more confident in their abilities, and are significantly more likely to stay active throughout their lives.

Well, back to the UQTR laboratory and its ambitions.

After a college career, Jean Lemoyne was hired at UQTR in 2010. Over the years, he realized that most of the students he accompanied during their master’s degree constantly talked to him about hockey.

Quite naturally, we discussed studies done on hockey and we did a lot of reading. There were also events, like conventions, where I started to establish contacts with people like Yves Archambault (formerly of Hockey Quebec) and Paul Carson of Hockey Canada. And it was around 2017 that we started doing a lot of hockey studies, and in 2019 we created the labhe says.

Instead of launching this project with great fanfare, Jean Lemoyne chose the theory of small steps.

It is still a project in development. From the start, we’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible so that it’s less cumbersome from an administrative point of view. But there, we will not have the choice to formalize this structure to increase our visibility. We have reached the stage where there is funding coming in for the studies that we are conducting. There are researchers and collaborators who are on board, not to mention people who come from other universities and who participate in some of our projects.he explains.

When UQTR started studying hockey, students in the Human Kinetics department worked more in silos. This year, a dozen students, including two doctoral students, are studying themes that are explored, often in teams, from different angles.

In collaboration with Hockey Quebec, the UQTR laboratory is about to start a very interesting study with the group of 15-year-old players who will defend the colors of Team Quebec at the Canada Games during the winter of 2023.

We will accompany HQ and these young people throughout the process leading to the Canada Games. We will conduct off-ice and on-ice evaluations. We will be interested in certain psychological variables as well as match variables such as advanced statistics. This will give us a good database to see how these young people will manage to transition to higher levels.

In recent years, the UQTR laboratory has also been interested in the introduction of half-ice hockey for children in the novice category (M-9).

A survey carried out in eight Canadian provinces, with 7,000 respondents, made it possible to discover what were the beliefs of parents and coaches in relation to these changes. In particular, this allowed Hockey Canada to determine the regions of the country where people were the most reluctant to this new method of learning and, above all, for what reasons.

In Saskatchewan and Ontario, resistance was significantly stronger, while in British Columbia and Quebec, these changes were welcomed.

In general, people felt that playing hockey in a restricted area was going to be beneficial for learning hockey. However, it was always the affective dimension that stood out negatively. Parents thought it would be less fun to play on half ice than full ice. The study therefore revealed to the federation that there was educational work to be done on this subject.says Jean Lemoyne.

All categories and all ages combined, there are approximately one million male and female hockey players in Canada. The topics and possibilities for research are therefore almost endless.

Among the works that caught my attention the most during my visit, there is this section devoted to the motivation of female hockey players in Quebec.

We find it interesting to know what the role models of female hockey players are and what their dreams consist of when it comes to hockey. For boys, we ask fewer questions, because they often dream of the NHL. But if we managed to better understand the vision that female hockey players have of their sport, for example, that could help the federations to adopt a different approach to recruiting them.

The UQTR laboratory obviously uses the Patriotes (the university team) to conduct research. But it also closely follows the progress of four groups of novice hockey players, of different levels, whose technical progress and other parameters will be measured four times during the season.

We want to know, for example, if these children practice only one sport and if it is possible to identify trends towards early specialization. We also intend to compare the profile of these young hockey players with a cohort of students participating in a physical education class.

Jean Lemoyne and his team are also looking into the notion of pleasure in the practice of hockey. To this end, an exhaustive questionnaire has been designed and an attempt is being made to distribute it as widely as possible. Twenty-five hockey situations were established. Players must rate each of them in relation to the level of pleasure it gives them.

It’s very promising! The Swedes revolutionized their hockey system by taking the trouble to listen to what the kids had to say.

In short, this hockey research laboratory has enormous potential.

On their own, the few projects mentioned above (and there are many others) are all likely to improve small facets of our hockey system, to enhance the quality of the experience of children who play our national sport or, simply, to better equip them to encourage them to remain active throughout their lives.

We don’t just want to produce articles that will be published in scientific journals. We want a transfer to take place and that our work can have concrete impacts on the ground.insists Jean Lemoyne.

In the short term, he would like his laboratory to be able to produce a kind of welcome kit for parents whose children are starting to play hockey.

It could be a series of meetings to raise awareness of the importance of physical literacy and the notion of pleasure in the practice of sport. It would also be interesting to help parents understand the principles they will face during their child’s journey.

I strongly believe in education. People sometimes say that parents should be excluded from the process. On the contrary, I think that hockey would gain a lot by making them strong allies. It would greatly increase the chances of making the experience more positive.believes Jean Lemoyne.

In the medium term, he believes that his laboratory could offer coaches training modules that complement those offered by the federations. To enable coaches, for example, to develop increased skills in pedagogy or analysis.

Do you want projects? En v’là!, as the advertisement said.

This is a very positive and stimulating project. Long live the UQTR hockey research laboratory!

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