Virtual reality is among the new must-haves in major college football. And fortunately for Vanderbilt, coach Derek Mason was among its earliest adopters.
According to the Tennessean, Mason had virtual reality -- back when it was still just an idea -- brought to him two years ago at Stanford by a graduate assistant coach named Derek Belch. The idea was that players would be able to simulate the actual plays in the playbook, plays they might have only been able to run in a practice setting previously.
"Back then, it was just a thought," Mason told the Tennessean. "Now it's reality."
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Belch went on to co-found STRIVR, or Sports Training in Virtual Reality, and counts Vanderbilt among his first clients.
"It's a very revolutionary concept, but it works for teams now. About nine out of 10 coaches get it right away," Belch told the Tennessean. "Schools like Vanderbilt are on the ground floor, and I think anyone who doesn't have this in two years will be left behind."
According to the Tennessean, there are three steps to implementing the virtual reality system. First, video is filmed from a 360-degree assortment of cameras placed as close as possible to the player to provide an optimal viewpoint. The film is then uploaded to STRIVR's system, after which it is uploaded into Vanderbilt's virtual reality database for players (or coaches) to experience it via headset or projector.
"It's an unbelievable teaching tool," Vanderbilt offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig told the Tennessean. "We can look at the same play four or five times in a row from the quarterback's perspective, talk through the different reads and help us make the appropriate decisions. What we are working toward is building a large library of all those plays and reads."
Added Mason, "It's one thing to see it on film from a bird's-eye view. But to watch it live inside the play, they can see what their techniques were and if their alignments were correct and see the pace of the play. I just think it's the next step of teaching."