STRIVR Labs is bringing its virtual reality training system to the German Football Association (DFB) in a new technology partnership that will be the first foray by both organizations into virtual reality’s potential uses in soccer.
The DFB is home to the German national team that won the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the Bundesliga, the women’s national team, and various other leagues and teams across Germany. It also operates a youth football program, which is where the DFB plans to first use STRIVR‘s technology, according to Nicolas Jungkind, the head of the DFB Academy Technology Lab.
STRIVR has enjoyed success as a partner of many college and professional sports teams — a majority of which are American football teams, such as the Stanford Cardinal, Cal Bears and Dallas Cowboys. (STRIVR has a marketing partnership with the MLS New England Revolution.) But Jungking admitted he didn’t know yet how much VR would translate to soccer, which involves more constant motion. For Derek Belch, the co-founder and CEO of STRIVR, the partnership with DFB reflects the football association’s innovative nature.
“This is something that was on their roadmap…and they know the limitations of VR for soccer relative to American football, and that’s OK,” Belch said. “They’re willing to get it in now, experiment now, make mistakes now, find the great use cases now, and find ways where they can obtain a competitive advantage where VR can work for soccer.”
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Right now, STRIVR’s technology will be primarily used at the youth level and is something Jungkind views as an “Academy project” that will in time improve the entire German football program. There are milestones to be made, and Jungkind said the project depends in part on the coaches embracing the new technology. To that effect, the German senior national team and U-21 national team came together Tuesday for a game and a virtual reality demo. Jungkind noted that, though the DFB is cautious with how it implements any new technology, both teams and their coaches seemed to welcome the use of virtual reality.
“We couldn’t be happier with STRIVR, which has been a full-on strategic partner supporting us with areas and objectives that we identified and focused on around the academy and around all our national teams,” Jungkind said. “The major focus for 2017 for us is competition, and therefore virtual reality fits perfectly…it hits the sweet spot of what we’re trying to achieve.”
Though VR is perfect for American football based on the style of play, Belch said, the key is finding where the technology will make the most sense in any given sport. STRIVR has plenty of cases in which virtual reality could be very useful — specifically with respect to accumulated mental training and preparation.
As the German national team and the DFB’s youth programs begin to make a run at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and other international competitions, their collaboration with STRIVR could prove greatly beneficial. As the partnership progresses, Jungkind said, his expectation and hope is that DFB and STRIVR will “uncover the potential virtual reality has in soccer.”