The Arcadia High School football team is planning to introduce new training technology to suppress rising numbers of player concussions and injury during practice, aided by local ex-NFL player Nick Lowery.
The Mobile Virtual Player (MVP) is a robotic remote-controlled dummy used during practices to simulate a player while preventing the injuries of head-to-head contact, which is when most injuries take place.
Tony Stillings, head coach of Arcadia High School Titans, had been interested in using the MVP as a way of “still tackling something mobile while not constantly going head-to-head with our own guys.” After research and speaking to Lowery, the athletic department made its decision.
“The MVP is obviously a very expensive piece of equipment,” Stillings said. The athletic department has decided to match the $2000 donation by Lowery for the school, but more money must still be raised.
The concept for the MVP came from the Dartmouth football coach with hopes to eliminate player-to-player contact during practice, and it was brought to the college’s Thayer School of Engineering, said John Currier, president and CEO of MVP. Students decided on “mobilizing the standard pop-up dummies.”
Last year the MVP ‘beta’ version was used by a number of teams, including eight NFL teams. Now, partnered with Rogers Athletics in Michigan, the “commercial rollout” of the MVP-Drive is hitting leagues from high schools to the now 17 NFL teams, including the Arizona Cardinals, Currier said.
There is a question of effectiveness because the technology is new. Making sure that players are prepared for contact during games is an important question, and the MVP is a moving target that can “move and juke” and can “get away from you like other players.”
The most important advantage is keeping players safe and healthy during practice, because they are “students who are going to go on and do other things,” Currier said.
Lowery has expressed wanting to have the MVP used across his home state of Arizona, and Currier said he hopes most teams will adopt “non-live tackling targets” as a “standard of coaching.”
“I have no real concerns about negative game performance,” Stillings said. “I think the MVP will keep our players fresher over the course of the season and healthier.” Because it is new technology, “we’ll have to wait and see” whatever is the best course to take.