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Virtual Reality Being Used by Indiana Soccer for Enabling Player Competition During the Pandemic

Coaches in Indiana have been trying to find ways to safely restart local sports again. Indiana Soccer, a non-profit organisation is addressing the concerns with virtual reality technology.

Dave Guthrie, the Executive Director of Indiana Soccer, expressed that the use of virtual reality technology-based solution is convenient during the Covid-19 pandemic, and can also be used even beyond this phase.

Indiana Soccer currently has upwards of 60 thousand members comprising people across several age ranges. Players and coaching professionals have already returned to the practices as part of the reopening measures but under some restrictions.

According to Guthrie, when Indiana was going through a stage three phase, how the game was being played was quite limited. There were restrictions regarding how many people could be on the pitch at a time. Guthrie said that players could pass the ball between themselves but could not go after it. Currently, the situation is better as players can now compete and even participate in league tournaments.

The non-profit is the first statewide organisation to enter into a partnership with Rezzil, a game development company. It has developed a virtual reality-based training simulator system that is being used in England by soccer professionals. To use the simulator, athletes must put on a headset and shoes equipped with monitors. Players can use the simulator for practice drills and the data from their sessions is then analysed and evaluated by companies such as Harena Data. Harena is among the companies responsible for this year’s ESports Combine event in Indianapolis. ESports analytics is an offering capable of evaluating highs and lows, along with providing scenarios that mimic real life.

Shawn Smith, the Chief Product Officer of Harena Data, said that the movements of athletes can be detected by the company. The movement data is then utilised by the company to determine the skill levels of athletes. Once the player’s body gets used to the VR-based system, they will see soccer balls coming towards them. According to Smith, players are put in a position similar to a defender in a real game. They have to react fast as their reaction will be evaluated.

Smith said that the VR system can help to identify if they should be using one foot instead of the other. Data such as that can be used by the players to train and improve upon several aspects of their game.

According to Guthrie, even a half an hour session on the VR simulator can be quite intense for the players, even if they are not moving across large spaces. He said that the system may be made available to all the players, with initial plans being in place for rolling it out to the Olympic development players.

According to Guthrie, the collected data and scores from Harena and Rezill can be utilised by coaches for recruitment.

The setup consists of a robust computer system, a VR headset and the feet monitors for the players.

 

 

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