How VR Tech is Changing Football Training
When you think about football injuries, you probably don’t think about how many of them occur not during a game, but during practice. Football can be brutal on players’ bodies, and coaches have to be smart about providing enough practice time while keeping their players as injury-free as possible for the field. Training techniques have changed a lot over the years as new technology has emerged, including virtual reality (VR), which is becoming an important tool in football training. Both professional and college-level teams use VR in training, and have seen impressive results from harnessing the power of technology on and off the field.
Derek Belch, COO of STRIVR, the VR startup helping teams train, explains why VR training is so powerful for players:
“That mental edge is oftentimes what separates the pros from the Joes.”
VR training can help players gain the mental edge, without fear of injury. Here are some of the ways coaches and players are leveraging this powerful technology to suit their training needs.
Quarterbacks have the most challenging job in the game, and the quarterback’s skill is a major factor in overall team success. VR is a great way to help quarterbacks gain the edge that is so important to a professional team. Everyone on the field is incredibly good at what they do, and quarterbacks need to use every tool available to best the competition. STRIVER has proven to be one way QBs can gain that edge—Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan increased his completion percentage by more than 12%–from 63.8% to 76.3%, helping his team win more games. Quarterbacks can look at replays, analyze footwork, and repeat drills virtually.
Recruiting and Training
Recruiting new players for college teams (a gateway to the NFL) is a difficult process, largely because it is so competitive. In answer to this, some schools are using VR to make the recruitment process easier and more accessible. Iowa State University has begun using VR to show applicants the game day experience, while many other schools offer VR tours of campus, allowing potential students to get a feel for the school without having to travel.
New players can also gain incredible benefit from using VR training. Once recruited, they have access to a virtual “playbook” of footage from their team. This can help new players gain technical knowledge more quickly, and improve the training process.
Training Players with Injuries (or to Avoid Injuries!)
When a player is laid up with an injury, they’re out of commission for a while, and can’t physically practice. VR training, however, can help these players keep their mental skills sharp while they heal—that way they can make progress even when it’s not safe for them to practice.
VR is also helpful for reducing the likelihood of player injuries during practice. By moving some training to VR instead of practicing everything on the field, there are far fewer opportunities for players to become injured, but they can still gain a lot of benefit from the training. There’s no substitute for real-life practice, but VR can allow players to practice more than they would be able to on the field—without the risks.
VR: Not All Business in Football
In addition to the VR developments taking place in football training programs all over the country, one football legend is bringing the quarterback field experience to a VR game. Joe Montana’s latest venture is Montana 17, a VR game from the perspective of the quarterback. It’s the first VR game to be licensed by the NFL, and while it’s not the same as the VR experience players use to hone their skills, it’s perfect for the avid fan who wants to get in on the action as their favorite quarterback.
VR Versatility in Football Training
With applications on both the team’s side and the viewers’ side, there’s little doubt that VR is becoming a powerful force in the professional sports industry, and will continue to become more powerful as time goes on. STRIVER has already cut down on the time it takes to deliver a team’s VR footage. Before software improvements, it used to take 4-7 hours to deliver new footage after recording a team. That was cut down to as little as 90 minutes in subsequent seasons, a testament to the incredible technological advances the company is making. More teams are beginning to see the value of VR all the time, and one day, it may become a standard training practice for athletic teams worldwide.