Three times a week, for the last eleven weeks, players from both, the men and women's hockey teams at UW Stevens Point have been participating in a study, that has them training.... in virtual reality.
"What we're trying to do is see how the virtual reality system can help with the brain training behind hockey skills," explained Emily Miller, one of the student researchers that came up with the project. "(The study) is more so (about) the multiple object tracking, peripheral vision, the object tracking reaction time and the cognition behind the hockey skills."
So essentially the theory behind the project is, if you train the brain in the virtual world with drills related to, in this case hockey, it will translate to improved in physical skills in reality.
So far the results from the trial have been encouraging.
"We've already seen some pretty great improvements from some of the players," said Miller
"We had drills with multiple object tracking," said Dani Heitsman, a player of the UWSP Women's hockey team. "You can get your head up and see what's going on around the ice. I think that helped in the VR system and then on ice, I think that correlated."
"It's a lot of fun," agreed Carter Roo a player for the Pointers Men's hockey team. 'I actually think that it does help a little bit."
Currently UWSP is the only college in the world conducting a study like this in the college age group. They are also the only university in the United States using technology like this to help their sports teams train.
Something that the players feel gives them a distinct advantage over their opponents.
"I think that it's very beneficial just because no other team has this," said Heitsman. "It's just one step up we get on the edge of competition."
"I think it give us an extreme advantage," agreed Roo.