The partnership will see the two organisations explore how VR technology and neuroscience can be leveraged to manipulate emotional and cognitive states of Ellipsis athletes in an attempt to maximise training and on-field performance.
Mental strength training—the ability to control your thoughts and feelings—has only recently become a staple element in the preparations of high-level Ultimate teams/clubs heading into major tournaments. Many teams are now using techniques like mindfulness training and visualisation to ensure their athletes are able to perform at the optimum level, even in high-stress situations. However, leveraging technological advancements like virtual reality has yet to be explored in our sport.
We had a chat with Ellipsis Head Coach, Steve Wright, to shed a bit more light on the partnership and the reasons behind it. Wright has recently relocated from Tasmania to Melbourne to be more a part of the WUCC campaign and is excited about the prospect of using this technology. "Where we [the Ultimate community] are at with mental training and visualisation hasn’t changed much for a few years," said Wright. "We were talking about using VR in a play-based way and with Matt Hill already owning an 360 degree capture camera, which is actually surprisingly affordable, the idea seemed well within our grasp.
"The concept is that you place the camera on the field where the thrower is (or would be), and you have players run particular offensive sets, offset with varying defensive formations. Then looking back on the film you can see all the different variations of play from a static position, as if you were the thrower." "We are pretty prepared for player feedback on how often and where/when we use VR. We see players taking the headset home and using it in groups of three or four. We are also thinking of experimenting with using VR before or during games, to try and influence our athlete's mental state in that moment. "Another potential use is at training pods with your teammates, where we could focus on one particular element or structure of the game, review it first in VR, then train it in real life. This would serve to inform and educate our players to the correct structure and method of training it, before we even step on the field. "It’s really important for people in Ultimate to learn from other sports and communities, but we’re at a stage where there is such a high capacity for innovation, in all sorts of areas, that there’s no need for us to be confined by the expectations or training standards set by other countries or even other sports. There’s no reason we can’t break ground ahead of other sporting disciplines. It’s clichéd but ‘thought is free’. If anyone would like to discuss this further with me, I’m very open to having that conversation."