Let’s admit it. Wouldn’t you be super excited catching a slam dunk from the courtside at an NBA game? Or get captivated by an NFL touchdown right from the sidelines with the stadium roaring? All of this and much more is possible with VR headsets! Sports teams and coaches use VR technology as a platform to learn and train better. Videos taken from the player’s eye-view during practice sessions, facilitate the players to undergo realistic, repetitive training with various scenarios to achieve peak performance.
“It’s going to disrupt all aspects of sport that you can imagine.” VR expert Michael
Ludden prophesised at the Leaders Sport Business Summit held at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge Stadium. VR has everything going its way to bring in major upgrades in every aspect of our lives in the coming years. And sport is one such arena where the introduction of VR has invariably transformed the way players train and improve their game after every match. Let’s find out how!
Sports training with VR
The sporting fraternity has always welcomed new technology. Teams and coaches are putting to full use the scope of VR to train, analyse and develop strategies even in the absence of physical resources. ” American footballers are already using VR to read the field, thus allowing quarterbacks to hone their skills without risking any injuries,” Michael Ludden stated during the two-day Leaders Sport Business Summit. He also added, “You can train with a real baseball bat that’s tracked in virtual reality against real pitchers using data from those pitchers…giving you advanced analytics on how the swing is.”
Let’s now explore the other areas where VR is making inroads and helping players improve their game.
- Skills training using VR
The immersive experience that VR provides is most obvious when players train for complex, high-risk situations that leave little margin for errors. Training in VR improves reflexes far better than in real life. The closer a simulation replicates real-life conditions, the more a player can gain from it even without the participation of competitors. For example, a baseball player can practise his swing against a virtual pitcher as many times as he wants. Similarly, a basketball player can practise his shooting, ball handling and work on his defensive skills too. VR is also a much-needed blessing for players recovering from an injury as it saves time while making a comeback. A case in point is Ian Mahinmi of the Washington Wizards. According to Joe Willage, data scientist at STRIVR, Ian had significantly improved his statistics in his injury-riddled 2016-2017 season with the help of the STRIVR training simulator, in just eight weeks. Even for budding talent, VR training offers multiple facets with algorithms that help lessen their time to feature in the starting line-up!
- Review and analysis using VR playback
Post-match player evaluations and pre-match analysis are rendered possible by VR technology. Sportspersons can assess movements from any part of the field while allowing them to scan for errors and work on their weaknesses. They can improve their interaction with teammates and also enhance their overall performance. Coaches can view, record and analyse every physical movement of the players with precise details and offer expert advice. Let’s take the example of NFL quarterback Casey Keenum. He would sit in the locker room after the practice session, wearing the VR headset and review every movement. He improved his levels by practising over 2500 repetitions in VR. This helped him significantly to lead the Minnesota Vikings to a 13-3 record during the 2017-2018 NFL season.
- Developing game strategies with VR
Devising a gameplan is vital to every match and tournament strategy. With immersive VR technology, coaches and players can study their opposition’s moves through previous match videos and strategise accordingly. VR, coupled with HD video playback, helps imitate the decision-making context, inspect the opposition’s tactics and develop countermeasures.
- VR as a source of continuous learning
With VR, players and coaches can turn on the game mode anytime! Training sessions can be tailormade with specific techniques and tactics. What’s more, there are even modules offered through VR with lessons by professional athletes. Rickie Fowler, a renowned golfer teamed up with Success Series to offer first-of-its-kind golfing lessons using VR.
List of VR products
Here’s a ready reckoner of the top 3 VR training products that’s wowed players and coaches alike:
- STRIVR – Widely considered an industry leader in VR training, their products are sought-after by teams from the NFL and NBA. They have dedicated VR videos from the player’s perspective or a bird’s eye view for a more tactical perspective. They also create different real-life simulations for players to practise and experience the actual environment.
- EON Sports – Their VR products specialise in creating training simulations for players, with actual playing situations for NFL quarterbacks. EON Icube is the world’s most advanced baseball VR simulator. It has about 50,000 different pitches available from thousands of MLB players. This is a major advantage for baseball hitters who gain insights about a pitcher’s ability such as their throwing speed and the ball’s swing path.
- Beyond Sport – Their focus is currently on soccer where they create different game scenarios for VR training. The German Football Federation (DFB), premier English clubs like Arsenal and Stoke City use Beyond Sport to customise different simulations of the game and adapt to various match situations. It’s only a matter of time before other professional soccer clubs and national teams follow suit.
Training with VR enhances player engagement and increases their confidence to try out things they would not, in real life. Sporting competitions will become more intense as VR gathers momentum among other disciplines, which will only excite fans from all over. It’s the dawn of a new era in sports training and VR has the potential to unearth every possibility and convert every opportunity. Undoubtedly, VR is here to stay and help in every way!
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