Training players to make better decisions under pressure using virtual reality

Founded by an ex-International football & UEFA Pro Licence coach, Future Performance Technology have built the ViPER Training System to utilise virtual reality in a unique way to develop the future player.

 

The transition

 

The desire to stay in football after a playing career typically leads to coaching positions. Many get employed by association. Being known by a particular club, manager, or teammate has its advantages. A relationship gets you into certain roles, but ability and effectiveness keep you there. Ciaran Toner started his career as an elite academy player and a pro at Premier League Tottenham Hotspur.

 

elite-academy-football-coach-and-virtual-reality-equipment-founder-Ciaran-Toner-football4football-articleINTERNATIONAL: Viper founder, Ciaran Toner played for N.Ireland

After a football career that took in over 350 league appearances and international honours with Northern Ireland, Toner embarked on a transition to becoming a qualified football coach. On his coaching journey, Toner astutely assessed the player-coach dynamic and its environment. However, while learning his trade, he began experiencing problems that were common at all levels of the game.


Having advanced to holding the UEFA Pro Licence, he went about addressing the issues he identified. Beyond finding answers, making things better was the mission. Future Performance Technology began to take shape.

 

academy-football-coach-and-virtual-reality-equipment-founder-Ciaran-TonerPROVEN: As a coach, Toner how he'd improve player development using VR

 

Tech fear

 

Tech in football is usually met with apprehension. Some of the ‘old guard’ were resistant to what they thought threatened human insight. This leads to products gathering dust, left in the corner of football training grounds. From GPS gear to training lights, fads come and go. Enthusiastic use is on and off. Virtual Reality in football is something that’s gaining a lot of interest. Younger coaches are being exposed to technology as the norm. They are more open to technology and software in daily life.

 

Setting-up-the-viper-virtual-reality-football-tech-on-football4football-shootTHE KIT: The ViPER system is easy to set up

 
Unknown methods used for player development must have benefits that are easily seen, though. Some companies push products, nothing short of gimmicks. They try ways to make a buck from football’s FOMO [Fear Of Missing Out] mentality. ‘It’s all about the marginal gains’ - lol.
Credibility is critical in professional football. It’s hard to build, but all so easy to lose. So Toner had to gather as much research-based information to underpin and craft his ViPER series of VR products and supporting tech.


Ciaran Toner thought hard about exactly what he wanted to implement and why. How he wished to enhance player development was going to require scientific validation to support his vision.

 

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Opportunity

 

When interviewed by football4football for a coaching segment, Ciaran detailed his role as a Lead Development Phase Coach in the English Championship. This firsthand experience provided an opportunity to help elite players progress. However, it was also a moment of reflection on how his own pathway as a youth footballer lacked something. Toner felt there was a flaw in training footballers to make decisions under pressure.

 

academy-football-coach-and-virtual-reality-equipment-founder-Ciaran-Toner-playing-for-spursPRO: Ciaran used his experiences as a young pro to develop his tech

In the elite game, they show teenage players how to physically prepare for performance. Sometimes, there is an awareness of mental demands and needs, but cognitive development is down the pecking order. Strange when the brain, although an organ, acts like a muscle. It needs to be loaded for it to grow and become resilient. It reacts and adapts to challenges.

Loading on the training ground has limitations. Sessions have to be set up in such a way that the group is constantly engaged. Team outcomes are tested regularly. However, logistics and external factors limit 1-2-1 opportunities for coaches. When done, it’s usually a technical drill that will directly impact physical outputs.

 

 

 

ViPER systems

 

As a coach, Ciaran met with challenges day to day. How could he prepare players for pressurised environments within a limiting structure? External expertise, in-game referencing and personal education built the ViPER systems. Stepping away from full-time football meant full-time product and software development in Future Performance Technology.

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Toner went above and beyond a one-size-fits-all approach. A line of three ViPER products were engineered by the ex-pro player. But, again, a clear understanding of their application and benefit for the end-user was vital.

 

  

ViPER player

 

This receiving & passing training tool develops the scanning and awareness skills of players to improve decision making. Using just a headset and Wifi connection it gives flexibility to train anytime, anywhere.

Virtual-Reality-football-equipment-used-by-academy-player-on-football4footballVISION: Great start point to up a player's scanning & awareness

 

  

ViPER player elite

 

Similar to ViPER Player only using bigger hardware that can capture more in depth metrics. This includes eye tracking, heart rate variability and goes more into the neuroscience side of training the brain.

A higher end elite system that would provide pro clubs or elite academy set-ups with a mass of unique data. 

Virtual-Reality-football-equipment-used-by-an-elite-academy-player-on-football4footballANALYSIS: The scaled up version adds more data feedback

 

 

ViPER coach

 

This is full immersion as the coach and player can go into the same virtual pitch. The coach can create game scenarios and work with the player in real time to go over in game 'pictures'. Essentially, this take visualisation training to the next level as the player can get onto the pitch and 'see' like they would in a real world match. 

Coaches and players can work together , even if they aren't in the same place. Another unique feature is that a coach can work with multiple players at the same time to drill defensive units as a whole in a training session. 

Football-coach-using-Virtual-Reality-football-equipment-used-on-football4footballFLEXIBLE: The system is adaptable for all coaching setups and environments

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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