Coaches, have you thought about using VR in your team’s practice routine? Why not?

The benefits are clear:

  • Better reaction times
  • Strength training
  • Improved Agility and hand-eye coordination
  • Faster Decision making

Technology is more affordable and feature-rich than ever before. For you, this translates to data. It’s not just VR, either, the wider array of consumer-level technology has opened a new dimension to coaching. The team can watch views from a patrolling drone or use their wearables to track each other’s diets. Accountability, marked improvements, and quantifiable data.

We’ll show you how to make it happen.

VR Fitness Applications

VR costs are lower than ever before, with multiple points of entry. From mobile devices to headsets, even arcades are getting in on the action. Most of your team might even own a PS4, or a VR-ready PC.

Finding Headsets

Begin by asking your players and their families for resources you might have available to you. VR is growing and it’s possible someone has a VR-capable device in their household already. Next, approach local game centers and ask for discounts for your team to hold VR sessions. You can count them as a sponsor when game time rolls around to give them a small marketing boost.

VR isn’t quite the new batting cages experience, but it does offer some applications that any coach would find useful. Let’s look at some experiences your players will find valuable.

Build Endurance with Cardio

BOXVR
Credit to: FitXR

Potential games: The Thrill of the Fight, Creed, Sprint Vector, Knockout League, BoxVR

VR fitness offers a full-cardio workout inside a virtual environment, which builds endurance without putting the body under excessive strain. My favorite genre for cardio is boxing, but I’ve found rhythm games to offer a similar level of an aerobic workout with a twist.

Rhythm games demand hand-eye coordination and target tracking, making them excellent for budding athletes. If your players are afraid of the ball, have trouble reacting quickly, or can’t move side-to-side effectively to stop a play, rhythm games can help them build endurance and work on agility simultaneously. 

Train the Muscles for Agility

Potential Games: Beat Saber, Arcade Saga, BoxVR, Holopoint

VR also improves agility and coordination. Players will learn how to recognize an object or pattern and react to it or dodge incoming objects at high speeds. Those motions train the body and feet through muscle memory, thus reducing the time from thought to action.

Holopoint continues to be one of my favorite titles in VR. The concept is simple: destroy glowing boxes and charging samurai, while avoiding their projectiles and dispatching them quickly. In practice, the game becomes a heart-thumping squat machine that builds situational awareness.

Improve Game IQ and Reduce Anxiety

Credit to: MLB

Potential Games: Climbey, Goalkeeper VR, Virtual Sports, Home Run Derby, Next VR

There are two kinds of sports applications in VR. The first simulates sports experiences, turning practice into a fun game. In Goalkeeper VR, players take the role of the keeper and must repel incoming shots rapidly. In MLB’s Home Run Derby, the aim is to smack it out of the park as quickly as possible.

None of these games teach fundamentals, but they do help players think about angles and zoning while having fun with the sport they love. All of these contributions help overcome anxiety on the field.

The second type of app is for viewing sports, like training films. Next VR is ideal for teaching game IQ from the professional perspective. Its cameras are position across courts in the NBA, over fields in the NFL and they are working their way into many other major sporting events. Players can review what the pros do, with coaches sitting beside them guiding their view to point out how a play is formed in real time.

Restfulness

Potential Games: Kingspray, Tilt Brush

Many players enjoy meditative aspects of VR, more soothing games that encourage creativity or restfulness. Use these titles to calm everyone before the big game, or after a heated practice session. A player’s mindset can impact decisions made on the field. Encouraging meditation helps keep players calm and focused.

Drones and Camera Applications

Drones are fairly new technology for most people, and they have a learning curve. That said, if you can pilot a drone you can record practice sessions from above. It’s easy to track players formations and movements all over the field.

Filming Practice

Many drones are compatible with 360 cameras, some even come with the devices already attached to the chassis. Using a single drone, coaches can survey the field from above, capturing footage for a highlight reel that changes how athletes train. That same footage is viewable in 3D video viewers with a VR headset, so players can look around and watch a specific aspect of the play as it’s in motion.

Using Action Cameras

Other options include action cameras, like a GoPro, which are lightweight and mountable to anyone or anything around the field. You can track a certain player’s perspective during a play, especially helpful if you want to teach concepts like positioning or zone defense. Knowing what others see, and how they find their offensive openings, helps improve overall game knowledge. For example, your defensive line might not realize that a certain formation blocks its goalkeeper’s line of sight and creates an opportunity.

Wearables and Other Technology

Lesser explored (but no less important) territory is wearable technology. Let’s start with the most well known, the FitBit, which has similar functionality to most other wearables. With FitBit, there’s a social component, calorie and meal tracking, activity tracking, timed workouts, hydration, and sleeping to name the main components.

Accountability

Teammates who have wearables should friend each other through these apps. They will be able to see one another’s exercise routines and meal plans, and hold each other accountable or encourage a fellow teammate to hit a certain goal. Coaches can also assign meal plans for those who ask for some help, with the ability to monitor progress through the application.

Instruction

Social media is somewhat underutilized. Coaches already know it’s a good way to keep parents informed of changes to schedules, or upcoming games. It’s useful for coordinating travel too. But your players are on social apps like Facebook, Discord and Twitter. Meet them there and post important drills, game footage, and other practice tips they can think about when they aren’t around.

The “theorycrafting” of a game informs a player’s game knowledge and decision making.

Final Thoughts

Technology allows coaches some answers to the question of how we can encourage practice without physical exertion. How can we fine tune more of the mental aspect of sports?

With a combination of this new consumer technology, some of which players might already own, you can make an impact on their performance. VR can help improve fitness, endurance, agility and more, while wearables provide insight into a player’s behavior outside the field. Use it when you can to encourage and push players to be their best.

Next-level practice films get your team thinking holistically about the playing field. It’s easier to help individuals understand their place within the moving components of offense and defense with film.

 


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