VR Brain Training, or cognitive training using virtual reality, is quickly growing as an important addition to any training program – especially for youth sports.
What is VR brain training? And why does it matter for coaches and youth sports?
You may not have experienced it yet, but virtual reality (VR) and the metaverse are here – and they’re here to stay.
Sales of Meta’s Quest 2 (formerly the Oculus Quest 2), the first commercial VR gaming platform, totaled almost 9 million units in 2021.
That’s nearly double the total number of headsets sold in the previous year. And 2023 is shaping up to be a big year for augmented reality (AR), with the expected release of Apple’s AR/VR headset.
This exciting new technology has the potential to revolutionize the way we work, learn and improve our cognitive performance.
Cognitive training is an important part of working with young athletes, especially over the last 3 or 4 years.
With more distractions than ever before, young athletes and students need support in building the mental muscles of focus and attention in order to thrive in sports and academics.
Cognitive performance is trainable, just like physical performance.
So how does virtual reality improve cognitive performance?
Here are 2 approaches to VR Brain Training for your youth sports program:
1. Improve focus with Priming (Mental Activation)
Mental activation, or priming, is a secret of professional athletes.
Think of it like warming up – you wouldn’t think of getting your team to play a championship game cold, without stretching or getting their heart rate up. That could lead to decreased performance, or more importantly, injuries.
So why aren’t you warming up their brains?
Priming warms up the brain
Sluggish reaction times, poor decision making and errors are all symptoms of a brain that hasn’t been been primed for performance.
Using VR brain training, you are able to mentally activate your athletes before practices and games. Mental activation improves the focus and performance of athletes when they need it most.
And the best part is, it can be done very quickly.
NeuroTrainer’s priming protocol fits easily into pre-practice and pre-game drills, taking only 8 minutes on average.
How priming works
Virtual reality systems like NeuroTrainer leverage immersive environments to override the visual system in the brain, and train it to focus.
Priming before practices, athletes will be more focused and more attentive.
This can help improve skill acquisition and save coaches valuable time by getting through to athletes more quickly.
Priming before games helps athletes get out of their head, and quiet the thinking mind. This helps reduce errors and promote resiliency in the face of high stress situations.
By getting your athletes mentally focused before games and practices, you can expect not only better performance during those high-stakes situations, but also improved confidence in your athletes.
2. VR Brain Training improves cognitive skills with mental reps
VR brain training isn’t only used before games or practices. You can also use it to improve overall cognitive performance, and even train in the off-season.
Think of cognitive training in this capacity more like going to the gym.
During S&C sessions, you’re helping your athletes build a foundation and conditioning them for when they need to exert in the regular season.
Just like strength, agility and speed, you can train and improve cognitive skills.
Skills like decision making, hand-eye coordination and situational awareness, which are all critical in sport and in life.
Virtual reality provides a powerful training method by giving athletes mental reps.
Athletes can repeat decision making and hand-eye coordination drills dozens of times in a single session, which helps train their ability to respond in the real world.
VR brain training also offers a fully immersive environment and creates unique opportunities to develop hand-eye coordination using highly sensitive controllers. Dodging balls and bombs provides a fun way to replicate game-like situations, while opening it up to any sport.
Situational awareness is also easily trained in virtual reality, by taking advantage of a full 360 degree immersive landscape. You can watch your athletes focus on something in front of them while needing to be aware of and respond to something in their periphery, or even behind them.
This trains their innate sense of situational awareness, helping them be more attentive to key activities in their game.
Coaches around the country are now adding cognitive training to their practice schedules. VR brain training systems like NeuroTrainer are a powerful tool to improve the cognitive health of your athletes, save time, and improve the performance of your team.
If you’re interested in exploring how NeuroTrainer might be a fit for your program, book a session to learn more.