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VR Proving Its Worth Both On and Off the Field

Andy Berg

Virtual reality is being used in games, movies, manufacturing, healthcare, facility design and increasingly by coaches and student-athletes in a variety of applications.

"Some of my friends have had concussions," Arkansas high school soccer player Ashton Inman told the local ABC affiliate. "Some of them took a break from it, but then some of them ignored it; so the video showed like it's really dangerous."

CrashCourse’s VR goggles and software allow students to actually experience what it feels like to have a concussion. Within the program, athletes are given the choice of continue to play in the game or seek medical attention.

"A lot of our students that suffer concussions don't know that they have," said Anthony Owen with the Department of Education. "Awareness is a major component of this; being able to recognize those symptoms, being able to make good decisions for themselves, to push back maybe if they think they shouldn't play."

While VR may helping with concussion awareness, it's also proving useful in helping players better learn their sport.

A.J. Smith is currently wide receivers coach for the XFL Houston Roughnecks and CEO of VAR Football, a virtual reality-based learning program for football players. He got the idea for the software after being frustrated while trying to teach a receiver to read a defense while running his pass routes. At the time, he resorted to pulling out an old copy the Tecmo Bowl video game. 

Smith said mere talk-and-chalkboard teaching just wasn’t getting the job done, which is when the see for VAR Football were planted.

“Quarterback is the most difficult position to play in all of sports, and 95 percent of football is mental,” John Paul Young Jr. told USA Today. “They’ve got pre-snap reads. They have to set the blocking, check for blitzes, make any play audibles, read the defense and make an accurate throw. With the extra reps we offer, all those decisions can become second nature instead of the quarterback having to think and react.”

VAR Football is priced so that high schools can afford it, which is where it’s primarily being employed at the moment.

“With the traditional press-box and over-the-top camera angles, you never see the game from the quarterback’s eyes. What we needed was a way to see from his eyes and his level,” said 36-year-old Nick Codutti, offensive coordinator at Class 5A Tomball, located 30 miles north of Houston.

The VAR system actually films practice from the quarterback’s perspective, offering a 360-degree view of the action. After practice, the coach and quarterback can put on the goggles and see the decisions the player made, both right and wrong.

Just 10 years ago, virtual reality may have seemed like pie in the sky, but it’s increasingly showing its value on and off the playing field.

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