Credit: Drew Shiller

Steph Curry has two regular-season MVPs, and he made an NBA record nine 3-point shots in this year’s Finals. That kind of talent is both physical and mental, encompassing modern athleticism in its fullest form.

The 30-year old is at the top of his game and improving year-over-year, and a recent interview with Back to Back sheds some light on Curry’s new routine.

Pre-Game Routine with VR

Brandon Payne, Curry’s personal trainer, Told the Back to Back Podcast that the challenge with Curry is finding new technology that doesn’t interfere with the workout. You don’t need unnecessary downtime, and you need mental stimulation.

VR solves this problem with realistic scenarios that the user can rapidly replay, with alternative angles. Reviewing a play from different perspectives keeps the user’s mind agile and improves game IQ.

Game IQ

The concept of Game IQ is a new phrase, but an old idea. Game IQ refers to decision making on the court or the field. The Detroit Pistons have been using VR to test a player’s ability to judge a given play and act accordingly. What the audience and sportscasters might see as psychic decision making, is a skill one can hone. Repetition is the key to unlocking this hidden talent.

With enough game knowledge, players can anticipate the flow of the game based on what others around them are doing. How defenders react, how the play moves, where the ball goes, each acts as a cue to the next few seconds of game time.

Game IQ, then, is a lot like seeing the game from the perspective of Neo from the Matrix. Ultrafast decision management.

Pre-Game Drills

If you have ever gotten out of bed and hit the road for a morning jog, you understand the powerful stimulant of exercise. Hitting the court for practice at the professional level can be like waking the body from sleep. No amount of fitness can prepare the average person for the onslaught that is professional practice. It’s both physical and academic, and it takes hours.

Before any of this begins, Curry dons a VR headset for roughly three minutes. His goal is simple: work on peripheral vision, spatial relationships, and hone focus to start the day. It’s like getting in the mood to play serious basketball.

The mental game is powerful. Motivation and momentum are products of the mind, the perception of winning or feeling ready as opposed to overwhelmed. Curry’s routine is all about honing the sharpness of the brain and preparing for the challenges ahead.

He uses a similar technique before workouts, extending the session to ten minutes. Exercises are individualized, so there may not be the need to focus as much on the method of playing basketball. Similar to utilizing VR during the offseason, there is a tremendous value to just being immersed in the game.

Final Takeaways

One of the more intriguing takeaways from the interview was how Curry’s trainer sees VR in relation to injuries. Micro injuries, which build up into more serious problems when the body is overexerted, need careful management.

VR can help players at the professional level to conserve stamina and work the mind and body equally. Trainers will need to consider how to balance strength, endurance, and mental conditioning now that VR is an accepted part of professional preparation.