The process of creating a virtual world is at its peak, especially in this time of life. With a projected growth rate of more than 22 billion U.S. dollars by 2025, VR industry is expanding to different sectors of the world. Advanced virtual reality sports and physical activity coaches are something that we need to explore as this practice has already started.
There are many major sports that have already started to use VR for their training and creating a virtual world for players to train. This area is quite new for everyone be it in terms of its usage or technology.
At first, VR was seen as a new advancement in the gaming industry. It had a perception among people as a predecessor of Play stations and Xbox. But the power of this technology took some time for people to understand. But truth be told, in the initial stage the VRs could not make an impact on the people to believe that this can be used for sports training purposes. Because pieces of training had a lot of features that the virtual world could not provide.
The usage of Virtual reality in sports training is increasing immensely in some of the major sports in the world. This helps in creating a virtual environment for the player and training according to their needs of them.
The main reason for this shift is due to injury concerns of the players. Especially the team sports where it is seen as a chaotic environment with everyone trying to beat each other. This is not only in the game but also during training sessions. The symptoms of dementia and concussions have been reported by many players across different sports like NFL, Football, Baseball, etc. Given the nature of these sports, the chances of a head injury is likely to occur.
Because of these reasons, safety protocols have become much strict in many sports. In team sports, each team has a separate doctor. If any injury concerning the head is immediately addressed on the field and the players are only allowed to continue after passing the test. The advancements in technology have given a space to explore the world of virtual reality and reduce these risks.
2. Virtual Reality In Sports
When we talk about virtual reality and its association with sports. People only think about esports. In the early stages of its arrival that was the case. It was this virtual world where people can play games and wear the VR headset. But it was after many advancements in the software, it has become what it is today.
The VR helps to give a space for sportspersons which has many options for trainers to set up training camps in the virtual world as opposed to a physical space. Virtual reality headsets will be given for the players to wear connected to software through which they can create a virtual training mode or game mode. One of the main reasons many people opt to this mode is its ability to create a situation for the players.
So when players are using VR to train for their games. This is a space that is safer for them compared to the actual field. The mistakes done by them would not have an impact on their physical body like it would in the field. Meaning that there is high chance of them getting injured in training sessions. If this happens to a prime player before an important game, this can have a huge impact in their chances of winning.
But the virtual reality cannot replace the traditional way of playing sports in the ground or court. This can be an extra element for players and physical trainers to improve their skills and get a personalized training before they play the game. The improvements in VR now is so immense which is the main reason for its growth. The sportspersons are amazed by the realism in this concept. The graphics in the software has made it possible to provide an virtual environment that is as close to as a physical space. You can’t find a difference between the virtual reality and the real world.
3. Using Virtual Reality For Sports Training
For sports training, VR is widely used by many major league teams to train their players for the game. From looking at it as a gaming tool to using it to develop their field skills and understand their strengths is the growth of VR in sports training. Using VR, they can create an environment with specific situations. For example, in football, they can program the field set up which they expect the opposition to play in the next game and train accordingly.
It also helps in programming the skills of the opposition players against whom you are playing. For example, if a player is weak in let’s say attacking in football. You can program the training match set up with top defenders to improve their skills and top the game.
When we say training it also includes choosing what our environment would look like. It is main because every sportsperson should be ready for any uncertain circumstances that may occur on the field. This includes the weather, place etc. So, VR training helps set up those exact scenarios where they want. This can’t be done in traditional training method.
4. Data Oriented Approach
One of the main things using VR for training is data collection. The trainings which are given using this method contains large amounts of data. All these data are collected using specific software that is developed for that particular environment. Based on the player’s past performance and information that are fed to that software. It would map a data base of each player containing skillset information and records.
So, whenever players train using this software. Their strength, and weaknesses of them would be reflected and training programs will be set up as per that. This happened when Mahinmi, an NBA player playing for the Wizards used this approach. His shooting accuracy was quite low compared to others. So, by developing a free shooting visualization in his VR setup. He was given a specific target to complete each week of the course which has helped him develop his shooting skills.
Using this method of training, it helps the trainers to collect many numerical data as to what they need to improve and what they are good at. The data would also include how the player needs to approach certain situations in the game. Meaning that the pre-sets of the game would be given to the player in terms of its past records, weather, opposition, field report etc.
5. How This Affects Physical Trainers
Looking at all the powerful things this Virtual Reality (VR) training can do. We should not look at it as a machine replacing trainers. Trainers are still important to make sure that the players are fit and ready to go. Their presence is not needed just in terms of physical fitness, but also their expertise and experience in real time sports helps the player.
Especially in sports, you can’t go on the field based only on numbers and data. Although those things are still important. The need of human instinct and emotion is very much important irrespective of whatever technology comes in the future.
We can see nowadays how these trainers develop a pattern using VR to train their players. This includes learning the controls of how this technology works. How to operate these things and setup programs that they want for each of them etc. This although to some extent may reduce the dependence of a trainer. This is mainly due to the advanced technology involved and the availability of information.
6. Advantages Of Advanced Virtual Reality Sports Training
One of the main advantages of VR in sports training is that you can set it up in any place you want. As there are many sports like NASCAR, rock climbing that people can’t practice due to lack of availability of those environments. With the help of VR they can simply need a laptop and a VR headset connected to that specific software.
6.2 Data Collection
Gone are the times when all the data were merely facts. In this method of training it is easy to collect data on your training and metrics of each player to improve their skillset. You can check whether they are training properly and have completed the given task of the week. In usual cases, there are chances of false information. But with the help of VR, all data will be accurate in terms of the number of drills a player did, hours of training etc.
6.3 Realistic Environment
Virtual Reality (VR) is the close thing next to the real field. With the advancements of technology in this sector. The players are exposed to real-world situations in their training period. Each and every detail in the programs are so accurate with these new graphics developed by the engineers. This helps them to get a feel of what it would be like before the game.
We are going back to the topic with which we started this virtual reality sports training. With high chances of getting injuries and concussions. VR training helps in reducing the concern of the safety of the player. This also applies to times when a player is recovering from an injury and before going to the actual field. They can get that feeling here and prepare themselves physically and mentally.
7. Disadvantages Of Advanced Virtual Reality Sports Training
7.1 Health Concerns
Over usage of VR might lead to health concerns like headache, eye strain etc. Same as the elderly says to the kids. The trainers need to make sure that there is a limit in VR training for players. If they overdo it, then the advantage of them being in a safe environment will no longer be of use since their health is at stake.
7.2 Cost Of Setup
A proper VR setup with advanced programs and a headset is costly. These high-end tech companies charge huge sum of money to give their program to the teams. This would affect the budget allocation for minor teams in terms of training costs.
7.3 Not Real
This is a complaint by many prominent players and coaches. Although with these new high-end VRs it projects the real world in virtual spaces. Truth be told, it is still not real. The experience of going to the field or court is something that can never be felt in the virtual training.
With new protocols began to rise in many sports fields across the globe concerning injuries. It has made the players to restrict on their training routine which would impact on their performance. With this comes Virtual Reality. This helps them to create an actual work space for them in the digital world and train their skills. The new technologies have made it so real that the visuals can help players to formulate their patterns on real games.
The industry is booming in terms of major league teams having mandatory virtual training for their players is a sign of the acceptance of this mode. The main reason for this huge success is its accessibility and ability to create environments which is normally out of reach for players. Like Formula One drivers can’t go to track and train before the race. The VR setup in their simulator will help them understand the track and give them a race-like experience.
This virtual reality training should be seen as a tool for improving the skills of the players and as an additional add-on to the actual training. Whatever we say, the physical training of players and fitness is the number one thing that is going to determine the win or loose of the team or them. It is not a substitute but rather an addition to strengthening the physical and mental strength of the players in terms of having real game situations.