What is Action Research?
As far back as I can remember, I have loved researching topics and ideas such as sports, history, people, and inventions. Sometimes this research would encompass hours, days, weeks, months, and even years of time. With Action Research defined as any systematic inquiry conducted by educators and others regarding how students learn and how to teach them (Mertler, 2020). I embraced the process to outline a strategic plan to utilize the Sense Arena VR system to its full potential with the students of Hat Trick Training Academy.
When first starting with Action Research, I quickly realized this is a type of research I have been doing this for decades. However, I never knew there was a name and certain steps associated with the process. For me, it is a very effective way of researching from finding the question(s), planning how to answer the question(s) by action, data collection to produce feedback, and reflecting on what is could be changed or altered or even left unchanged for future research studies. It is ongoing research method that continues throughout many studies.
In 2003 I started watching videos of youth hockey players from Finland, Sweden, and Russia. While watching them, I started researching and found information on the coaches, their ideas with their training goals were with the training. In the videos, youth skaters skate faster than I have ever seen kids skate. They have remarkable puck handling and stick handling abilities, accurate shots and innate hockey sense (the ability to read and react to the game). As a head coach, I decided to take the research I had collected for over a year and implement it with my first elite youth hockey team. We ran a system influenced by the skills and information I had collected. The system was built around speed, puck control, accurate shots, defense and intimidation (how we dressed in matching gear and how we carried ourselves on the ice, always respectful to opponents). We practiced more than any other team in the region with over a 120 hours of ice time while others averaged about 45-60 hours. The players responded well to everything and fell in love with the European model while opening their minds to a new way to play the game. Six years later USA Hockey started sharing the videos and information they acquired while doing their own research on the same coaches and countries. This is now the basis for USA Hockey’s American Development Model (ADM)
which helps players develop and understand the game at a quicker rate than they have in the past, according to Mark Tabrum, Director of Coaching Education for USA Hockey, in a conversation I had with him in 2007.
At the beginning of the DLL program we were asked to find an innovative project we could implement into our work place. Just like looking for the future of hockey in European models in 2003, I started looking for the future of hockey, specifically training, for the innovation project. That’s when I found the Sense Arena Virtual Reality Training System. Working out the implementation plan, as well as the 4DX Model, using the Action Research process to research, train and track progression with the read and reaction time of each participant seemed the perfect match for HTT and Sense Arena.
The Topic of Action Research Plan
Part of Action Research is being able to test or monitor the progression of the research question. The research question I proposed in my outline is, With the advancement of virtual reality in sports training, to what extent does the Sense Arena have the ability to target train for overall skill improvement, as well as read and reaction times, in the youth ice hockey player? Read and reaction time is being able to recognize the situation and the quickness of the cognitive motor skills and neurons to react to the environment. With all the practice in speeding up the read and reaction times, we will look at the participant’s advancement in their overall skill’s as well.
Purpose of Study
There are several reasons for the study, however the one we want to focus on relates to the question that was proposed. Does the Sense Arena have the ability to target train for overall skill improvement, as well as read and reaction times, in the youth ice hockey player? The study will show that training in virtual reality will improve read and reaction times and will allow the participants a new way of training that does not include being on ice. Participants will be able to practice is a virtual reality environment that is similar to an ice hockey rink. Coaches and instructors will be able to manipulate what the participants are seeing and the type of drills and skills they will be working on to improve their abilities. I feel this will open the doors to using virtual reality as a “legitimate” form of training in ice hockey.
Fundamental Research Question
As mentioned before, the fundamental research question is, With the advancement of virtual reality in sports training, to what extent does the Sense Arena have the ability to target train for overall skill improvement, as well as read and reaction times, in the youth ice hockey player? This question allows our researchers to look further into specific training. While we want to focus on read and reaction times, the practice and training will allow us to see and evaluate the participants on: hockey sense (being able to understand the game and theories), stick handling, and shooting skills. I believe that working with the Sense Arena, participants read and reaction times will improve and will show the benefits of training in a virtual reality environment.
Research Design and Methods
The research design and method that HTT will utilize is both quantitative and qualitative in the Sense Arena. While practice doesn’t make perfect, practicing perfect does help to make perfect. Participants will be trained in proper quality techniques where they will be practicing perfect form and understanding of the movements and reactions of their body. With practicing comes repetition. Repetition in perfect practice will allow the participants to be able to train muscles and their brain into reaction to certain situations. The more practicing perfect in the Sense Arena on read and react will translate into game time situations on the ice. The Sense Arena has ability to test and measure quantitative methods in the system. The qualitative assessments will be provided by coaches and trainers.
Type of Data Collected
Knowing and understanding is why I love research. The basis of all research comes down to the data collected and what it reflects. Data collected from HTT will be both quantitative (the number of repetitions and amount of practice time for participant) and qualitative (participant using correct technique and setting the Sense Arena to specific simulations). The Sense Arena currently allows the user to see their read and reaction time from the set practice components on both the screen and on a printed card. HTT will encourage other training facilities and Sense Arena to collaborate and share data collected to monitor and improve the quality of Sense Arena and specific training the participants may need. Being able to have Sense Arena and other training facilities available to collaborate with, will allow HTT to help make our participants better and help other facilities as needed with any ongoing research they might be conducting. Coaches will also collect data on participants in their games. These will include time with handling the puck, shots on net (within the red pipes of the goal), goals, passing completion percentage, blocked shots and body checks. All of the data collected from Sense Arena and game play, will be analyzed, shown to the players and saved into their personal files. Sense Arena has the ability to save, record and analyze the read and reaction times immediately and supplies the player with a “read and react” card.
Measurement Instruments Used
Sense Arena’s built-in technology to analyze read and react times in the scenarios is one of the many benefits of training by virtual reality. Having immediate feedback rather than what normally takes hours to weeks to analyze by scientists in expensive labs is a game changer for the participants. Being able to have this data analyzed in seconds will help allow players to cut development time into fractions of a minute. Our coaches will be able to see what areas the participant is deficient in and correct the problems without having to wait. Along with the Sense Arena, video cameras, computers, and manual tabulation by coaches will be utilized to collect data.
Reviewing the Literature
Research on virtual reality is plentiful. However, finding research on virtual reality and training in sports really narrows the available research. Research on virtual reality in ice hockey training is little to nonexistent. I was able to reach out to Sense Arena and they supplied me with two studies that recently had been conducted. One of the studies had to be translated from Czech to English so I could read it. Both studies provided information on read and reaction to complement my research in the previous section. I added several different sources to compare the benefits of using virtual reality in training from sports to even person-to-person interactions. Click here to see the Literature Review for the Sense Arena
Having a time line to go with the action research is a way to keep the progress on track. Introducing new techniques, training and data collection is a time-consuming process that will take months, if not years, to complete. HTT has a preseason, season, and post season time line that starts from baseline testing and completes with post season feedback and collecting of data for publications.
One of the most crucial steps in Action Research is the reflection process. At this stage is we will take a look at the data, research, models, actions, and feedback and evaluate if the training in Sense Arena is beneficial to the participants. Reflecting is an ongoing process that doesn’t just happen once. Reflecting happens every time a study or evaluation is complete. After every session in the Sense Arena participants and coaches reflect on what is beneficial, what is hindering, and any other information that could help with researching (I.E. weight of the stick being used, the weight of the headset, amount of space allowed, colors in the Sense Area, etc.). Having the reflecting process is the key component to having an ongoing beneficial and accurate research study.
Mertler, C. A. (2020). Action research: Improving schools and empowering educators. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Sense Arena. (n.d.). Retrieved July 01, 2020, from https://www.sensearena.com/