Brain training for defense

The quarterback position grabs the spotlight when it comes to virtual reality training in football. The fact of the matter is that every position can benefit from this technology. I would venture to bet that if you set up a “brain training lab” with a VR simulator, you would be able to fill the schedule with players ready to learn and practice in virtual reality simulations. 

Football is a game of patterns of movement. While technically there’s a seemingly infinite number of possibilities, the number of patterns each position needs to develop visual acuity for is truly limited. For example, a middle linebacker is responsible for diagnosing the blocking scheme and either fitting the run or getting into his pass drop. Taking a typical running attack, the linebacker would need to recognize and fit power to, power away, counter to, counter away, inside zone to, inside zone away, lead to, lead away, sweep to and sweep away, pass protection, and of course any play action off of those runs. On plays diagnosed as pass, the linebacker might need to drop to defend a seam, a drag, a spot, and a shallow route. That’s still a lot on his plate as far as recognition, but it is a limited set of possibilities. 

Practice over the course of the week might allow him to see 8-10 live repetitions of each possibility. Over the course of the season there is certainly a cumulative effect on learning. How can the learning and visual recognition be accelerated?  The answer lies in virtual reality simulation. 

Putting these plays into a VR simulator, the player can go through a weeks worth of practice reps in minutes. He can get all of his pre snap recognition work and calls or checks made as well as being able to see the play develop and see where he is supposed to fit or drop. No, he is not hitting or working block protection, but that’s not the point. He is training his brain to play faster so that the physical skills and fundamentals learned on the field can be performed at a fast pace on the field. To put it plainly, brain training enhances the players’ ability to play fast. 

Eon Sports VR has just released a VR quarterback trainer. However, they do have packages that allow the coach to create simulations for every position. 

Check out what they have to offer here:

Why Brain Training Matters

For the time being, let’s set aside the concussion issue and how virtual reality puts the athlete in a zero impact environment.  This is certainly a benefit of using virtual reality in training.  However, the discussion on protecting the brain overshadows the benefits of virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) in training the brain.

Before the argument turns into which is better – live video or video gam-like simulations, realize that training the brain to track and focus multiple targets as simple as blobs on the  screen has a positive effect on an athlete.

In the video below, you will see orange spheres being used in a VR simulation designed to improve cognitive-perceptual performance:

All great athletes know that to be very efficient, they cannot rely solely on their physical abilities. The speed and effectiveness of their decision-making are essential. Two researchers at the School of Optometry, University of Montreal have discovered that by training the high performance athlete brain with perceptual-cognitive task in a virtual reality environment, they managed to increase by 53% in the average cognitive-perceptual performance of athletes. Conducted by the postdoctoral fellow David Tinjust and professor Jocelyn Faubert, holder of the NSERC-Essilor research Chair, this research has been conducted at the Laboratory of Psychophysics and Visual Perception at the Universite de Montreal.

The point is, it is really about the protocol as much as it is the immersion.  Yes a fully immersive simulation is more realistic, but it doesn’t necessarily take every single element or something that looks 100% life like to make an impact on the athletes vision and decision making.

Football is a game of patterns.  It starts with the players in a static alignment, and when the ball is snapped a truly finite number of movement patterns happen in front of the athlete.  For the athlete to see what he needs and make quick accurate decisions, he needs to be trained in those patterns of movements. Unfortunately, a limited number of on field repetitions are available.  It becomes even more limited for the second or third teamer.  So how does the player get the training he needs?  The answer is in the technology that trains the brain.  It takes a lot of time to set up all 22 players and run play repetitions.  With virtual reality an entire practice can be simulated in minutes.

In an article in the upcoming issue of American Football Monthly I highlight EON Sports VR, STVIR Labs, Axon Sports, and Dynavision.  Each does things differently in terms of how they train the brain and the technology that they utilize.  The one aspect of each that is consistent is that their products are proven to enhance the ability of the brain to function and help the athlete to perform in the football environment.

I promise you if you are not looking into how you can utilize brain training and these companies to train your athletes, you will be.  Here’s one way to get started:


I include an in-depth section in my soon to be released book Coaching HD on the new Coaches Edge Technology platform.  Stay tuned for news and announcements. In the mean time, check out our library here.

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American Football Monthly-Multi Media Educator

by: John Gallup
Editor and Publisher
© Vol I 2015

For many years, the pages of AFM and coaching clinics were the primary ways a football coach would learn about new techniques, schemes or systems that were being used by other coaches.

That’s all changed with the Internet. Today there are multiple ‘platforms’ available to any coach that wants to share his knowledge and opinions with the coaching community. You can turn to dozens of football websites and find volumes of opinions and ideas on every topic imaginable.

Not many are as well researched and written as those by Keith Grabowski, former offensive coordinator at Baldwin Wallace University and longtime contributor to AFM.

Grabowski has embraced all modern forms of communication as means of delivering his unique insights on offensive football to coaches everywhere. What sets him apart is the quality of his content, much of which is enhanced with corresponding video. The end result is some of the most comprehensive football educational information available anywhere.

Not many writers have contributed more content to AFM in recent years than Keith. He is entering his fourth year as author of AFM’s popular “Managing Your Program” column, where he advises coaches about a wide variety of off-the-field issues. He has written several feature articles and contributed to others such as this issue’s cover story about offensive game planning.

Grabowski is perhaps the most prolific blogger in football. His personal coaching blog “Coach and Coordinator” is an extensive collection of educational posts and helpful coaching links. His regular posts on are highly detailed and informative and often accompanied by video highlights. He is also a featured blogger for USA Football.

Keith has produced seven popular DVDs on offense with AFM Videos. He has also published several ibooks. He collaborated with AFM on the Coaches Edge game planning system available on Naturally, he uses Facebook and Twitter to communicate with his growing list of football followers.

As if his resume isn’t already full enough, he is embarking on a major new project with AFM that will be officially announced shortly. It’s the ultimate educational resource for current or future offensive coordinators – a complete 12-week curriculum on how to be a successful OC, offered online as part of the new AFM University educational service. Watch for more information soon on, our Facebook page and our Twitter feed.

For now, you can keep up with Keith Grabowski, or try to, at

John Gallup
Editor & Publisher

Virtual Reality in Football Training is Becoming a Reality

Stanford using VR to train QBs

Virtual reality provides our players with more learning opportunities than we can provide on the field while keeping them safe from contact and collision. It uses a technology that is used to train surgeons and fighter pilots .  It’s packaged affordably for the high school level.  The possibilities with this are huge.  Players play faster when they understand and recognize, and this training platform works to accomplish just that.  EON Sports Virtual Reality has developed training software that brings a Madden-like atmosphere to life with 3D virtual reality.  Your player can put the headgear on and turn his head viewing the field and the play as if he was right in the game.  Research shows that people remember more by doing as opposed to simply watching something.  You as a coach should watch game film, but ask yourself, “Are my kids learning anything from the hours of gamefilm they watch?” Film is good.  Overdose of film isn’t.  Herman Ebbinghaus studied learning and found a direct correlation to repetition based on active recall (repetition).  unfortunately, we have a limited number of reps in practice, and team periods don’t always allow for us to get our back-ups proper repetition.  Additional repetition can be provided through the virtual reality technology in EON’s software called Sidekiq.


1twitterheadingI have this software, and the capabilities and potential for coaching your players now and in the future are tremendous.  This is the safest way to get more repetitions thus allowing your players to become proficient and play fast.  You need to check this out!  EON Sports VR has improved on something that is already great and made it affordable for every program.
Gone are the days of trying to explain something 10 times before they get it right. Gone are the days of kids not watching or learning from game-film. Today your job just got a whole lot better.
SIDEKIQ, the only football training tool that puts your athletes in real live game action at realistic game speeds, is now compatible with HUDL.  Version 2 is now being launched and the biggest upgrade is the HUDL integration.
If you’d like to get started for $195 let us know. Contact Brendan Reilly.  Mention that you heard about it here.

I will be sharing more innovations in coaching in my soon to be released book Coaching HD

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A State Champion Coach on using Coaches Edge Game Planning System

“The most valuable resource we have as coaches during game weeks is time – and this resource helped me completely re-imagine how I can best spend it.  By taking the process of planning and scripting and automating it, this tool will allow me to be more efficient in how I work, and most importantly, leave me more time and headspace to be fully present with my kids during our preparations.”

Andrew Coverdale
Offensive Coordinator
Trinity High School
Louisville, Kentucky
2014 6A State Champion

The system is adjustable to create any mix of run or pass ratio you wish to have in practice.  Once you make the decisions about what you want in your game plan, enter it in the “game plan board” and the rest of the work is completed for you.  Practice scripts, call sheets , and a quarterback wristband are generated for you.  You save a minimum of 8 hours per week and have the confidence that you gave your offense enough work to be ready for the situations they will face.

Also included are printable work sheets for your game plan preparation, as well as a post game report for quality control.

Read about the process here.

All of this is available to you for just $99 one time.  You do  not have to subscribe to yearly.  Get it here:

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Diagrams, video, or both?

February 17, 2015

I just saw a tweet from Just Play Sports Solutions that posed this question:


Interesting question: Do coaches prefer: diagrams Playbooks w/ video or just video playbooks?Lucky enough we do both!

I think the answer is this…

The diagram is the starting point.  It is very much like having a route mapped out to reach a destination where you have never been.  You certainly do not know what that route looks like or the intricacies of traffic lights, speed changes, or landmarks.  However, once you have driven it a few times, you know , “Slow down here; a cop is usually sitting behind that sign with a radar gun,” or “Turn right at the McDonald’s.”  The features of what is diagrammed on paper (or digitally) become apparent to the driver.

A diagram acts the same way.  It shows exactly where to go though the technique, footwork and adjustments may not be clear.  Without a good diagram, you don’t have a clear road map.

Or you just can rely completely on the technology and end up like this:

Just kidding!

I like what Just Play Sports Solutions is doing.  They are worth checking out.

This and other topics on utilizing technology in coaching will be available in an interactive book soon.

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In the meantime, check out my iBooks now available on the iBookstore:

101+ Pro Style Pistol Offense Plays 

The Zone Offense:  Create a Structured System

Pro Style Pistol Offense – 101+ Read Game Plays

Targeted Attack:  Using Tempo as a Weapon

A Coaching Arsenal edited by Keith Grabowski

Immediate Feedback at Practice – an update

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a mock-up of my vision for live video feedback in 2013

This is an update to a post I wrote on December 28, 2013.  This is an exciting time in coaching.  The tools available to us to maximize our effectiveness seem to be developed almost as quickly as we get an idea.

I presented a vision for technology being used for immediate feedback.  At the time there wasn’t anything available on the mass market, but in under a year, the apps I was looking for appeared.

Getting immediate feedback at practice or in the weight room is pretty simple now.  Company’s like Varsity Worx provide an outstanding solution for both game day and practice.  This is a piece of technology worth checking out.

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The principle used is a delayed mirror.  The technology gives the coach and athlete the ability to view the move they just performed on a delayed video loop.  The app continues recording the next repetition or play.

While Varsity Worx provides everything you might look for in functionality, there are some simple and cheap solutions available from the app store.  With these, an iPad is used (an iPhone can be used too but the playback screen is small).  The iPad records the repetition or play.  Then the athlete and or coach simply goes around to the back of the iPad to view the repetition.  The apps listed have varying capabilities like slow motion or telestration.

Here are a couple to check out:

BaM Video Delay

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Live Video Delay

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If you have an iPad then the technology is available for you to use immediately for $2.99-4.99 if your booster club or program budget won’t allow for something like Varsity Worx.  The apps are probably only good for individual practice segments, but that is where we are trying to prefect technique anyway.

This and other topics on utilizing technology in coaching will be available in an interactive book soon.

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In the meantime, check out my iBooks now available on the iBookstore:

101+ Pro Style Pistol Offense Plays 

The Zone Offense:  Create a Structured System

Pro Style Pistol Offense – 101+ Read Game Plays

Targeted Attack:  Using Tempo as a Weapon

A Coaching Arsenal edited by Keith Grabowski