As technology takes more place within sports organisations, we believe virtual reality has tremendous potential to impact top athletes training. The first global use case is the US ski teams’ training for the Olympic Games. Using a custom VR simulation before the 2018 Winter Olympics, the team enhanced its’ performance and confidence with the unfamiliar trail. At that time, they won the gold medals.
Could it be that VR simulations become a commodity for the next-generation athletes? Let’s explore how VR technology enhances various sports practice.
VR reduces the risk while enhancing the user experience
High-risk sports with low error margins are the first target area for Virtual Reality training. With 360 degree videos and full immersion experience, VR tools can significantly reduce the number of accidents and injuries. This is specifically important for beginner athletes who need some practice to grow.
Furthermore, VR training is the only tool that allows athletes to train on future competition trails without travel. This can provide a significant advantage to athletes, just like it did to the U.S. ski & snowboard team. South Korean Olympics trajectory was unfamiliar to the skiers. Thus, a custom VR simulation prepared them for the challenge.
Our athletes have very limited time and opportunities to train on race courses when competing in World Cup or Olympic events. The clear advantage of VR is that it is a great way to help athletes get more used to and learn specific courses, which is an obvious performance benefit.
What about other sports?
As the competition in professional team sports gets higher, hockey coaches are finding new methods to improve their training practice. In fact, three Canadian hockey training agencies have already adopted the VR technology. So far, they have seen obvious benefits. With sensors installed on the hockey sticks, the system can understand each player’s movements and create seamless simulations for the team play. Without any skates needed, it improves the player’s peripheral vision, team work and scoring.
Hockey players using VR training improve their skills faster, a study by Charles University reveals. This is no surprise, as VR allows to repeat multiple drills in half an hour unlike any ice training. Complex life-alike simulations like this can enhance the player’s decision making skills, making him reactive during the future matches.
VR in baseball
A VR training program developed by SIUE showed that VR training helps baseball players to grow their in-game confidence and psychological skills. It’s not just about seeing oneself in a virtual baseball field, it’s also about mental preparation. An imagery script and an audio guide that follow make the experience actually enriching.
Due to the positive feedback from athletes and their performance growth, the tool might be further applied in college and school training, believes the SIUE.
Virtual Reality is not the best fit for all but we are convinced as the technology matures, simulations will become an essential part of training.