Can we help improve AFL goal kicking % with VR? I think we can!
It would be my goal to see an increase of 5% overall, this would be huge for the game, the last time we saw a consistent improvement in Goal Kicking % was from pre-1980 to Post 1980.
Goal Kicking in the AFL has not really improved much since around 1980. We have seen the percentages bounce around between 50% to 55% overall.
From 1915 to 1980 it was around 45% to 50%, this was back in the days of mud, heavy balls etc.
Granted it was a different game then to what it is now.
Also, these stats include speculative shots, shots under immense pressure etc.
To improve Goal kicking % by 5% we will need to see all Forwards that take a lot of shots to improve their accuracy. Not every player has to improve, just the ones that take most of the shots at goal.
The best goal kickers are sitting just below 70% in Goal Kicking Accuracy, if you consistently can get 70% or above then you are doing really well and so is your team.
I also think the starting point in this quest to make Goal Kicking better is that of the set shot!
Imagine even getting an extra 3 goals a game due to players nailing their set shots, that is 16 points. How many more games would have your team won this year?
As one who is involved in both Basketball and AFL I find that Free Throws are very similar to Set Shots at goal in AFL.
Both scenarios have a player execute the shot without any physical pressure from their opposition.
Both scenarios see the players quite often under fatigue.
And most importantly, the best free throw shooters and Goal Kickers have strong routines whilst executing the shot or kick.
There is one difference with AFL, that is the kick is taken from where you take the mark, this is generally a different spot and angle each time.
Why is there a problem?
I think we have many reasons in why we do not see an increase in set shot performance by our forwards in AFL. Let’s break it down into two problem areas!
Limited Training Time during the week.
Firstly, training time on the park is limited, there is so much to get through each week that Goal Kicking can be ignored a little. This cannot be helped, we need to manage players, there is so much to do each week.
Some AFL clubs may have 15 minutes of Goal Kicking per session, this may be structured or unstructured depending on the session and the club.
So let’s say we get in 3 lots of 15 minutes of Goal Kicking with a little over 1 kick per minute we are looking at 50 kicks at goal a week in training.
We also see players kicking for goal pre-game as a part of their warm-up, they mostly hit these kicks pretty well. There is no pressure and they are not fatigued.
Pre-season is different, this is when a lot of work is put in. We do not have to worry about having the players cherry ripe for the next weekend’s games.
You will see a lot of forwards seem to have a routine, you see it pre-game but when you get into the match that can change.
You will see players abandon their routine, a lot of the time they are wondering who to pass the pass the ball off too before kicking, this sometimes is still happening whilst running in for the shot at goal.
Obviously, if you are thinking about kicking it to another player in a better position then you are not thinking about your routine or kicking the goal. You will certainly not have confidence in yourself.
The routine does a few things for you.
It gives you something to believe in and takes away any negative thoughts because you are 100% comfortable with how you are going to execute the kick.
Confidence and belief in your ability is a major driver for situations like this, yes you may be fatigued, you may be on an angle. The kick may be the game sealer!
Routine takes a lot of stuff away out of your head and allows you to do what you do best, kick the ball truly.
Look at two players from different era’s who have great routines. Ben Brown who plays now for North Melbourne and Tony Lockett who played for St Kilda and Sydney who kicked bags of goals and was very consistent.
Routine also goes hand in hand with Visualisation. If you can Visualise yourself going through your routine and kicking truly then you will begin having more success as it does help with your confidence and primes you for success.
How can Virtual Reality Help fix Set Shots in the AFL?
We then bring that footage into our App after we have taken out any misses and produce an experience of 20 minutes in length.
This Virtual Reality Experience helps in the following ways.
By wearing the headset and watching themselves kick goal after goal after goal it actually mentally primes the player into believing that they can actually hit the target and consistently.
Visualisation is very interesting and very powerful.
A story about the power of Visualisation. Colonel George Robert Hall was a POW during the Vietnam war. He was in captivity for 5 years.
During that time he would play a mental game of golf, this game took around 5 hours. He imagined putting his glove on, selecting the club even putting his pants on.
He would visualise walking around the course in between shots. He did this daily.
When if he finally got released he went and played a round of Golf, he got 2 over. The thing is, he was not a regular golfer prior to being taken, prisoner. He had only visualised playing.
There are loads of studies that show that visualising something in your own head is very powerful and can provide wonderful improvements in performance.
Watching yourself in Virtual Reality kicking goals from multiple angles is the ultimate Visualisation tool.
Well, it is much better than visualisation, you are actually seeing yourself perform, not imaging yourself performing.
How is that for positive reinforcement.
When in VR there is a kicker, there are no distractions. You cannot drift off and look at your phone, look out the window or be distracted by a teammate, you are immersed in the experience.
You have built your routine, now you are seeing yourself go through it again and again and again. This time not from within your own head but from a POV of another person watching you.
This really beds in the routine and also gives you opportunities to simplify the pre-kick routine.
This is interesting. Whilst watching yourself you may notice that when you get tired your drop your ball from a higher position or you sway it from side to side making perfect contact with your boot a little less likely.
As a player, actually watching yourself succeed and kick over and over again you can correct any faults that you never would have noticed before.
You bring Mental Priming, Visualisation, Routine and Self Correction together then you have a very powerful combination that can really make a difference in the player.
Training without extra physical load.
I mentioned earlier that players only have so much time on the track, Virtual Reality can be used to better players set shots before they play, before they train and during downtime at the club.
All we need to do is capture 360 VR video of Player A going through set shots at training.
Some footage from the front, some from the side and some from the back.
The player can then watch themselves perform and get all the benefits that we mentioned earlier.
Obvious times to use the VR solution would be prior to training and prior to games. Let us take advantage of that Mental Priming and get that confidence in the routine and technique at very high levels.
Another time would be during any downtime during the week at the club. The player can go through 5 to 20 minutes of themselves kicking goals and getting all those benefits from that.
Is goal kicking the only thing we can improve with VR? No, there are many other things but I think if we start with something like Goal Kicking and show that we can have a large and positive impact then other uses for VR can be introduced.
Things such as decision making at stoppages, kick outs, midfielders watching the ruckman at hit outs both in the middle of the ground and around the park to allow them to pick up signals that they may miss whilst training or playing.
There are many uses for VR in the great game of AFL.
But, for it to be a success the player that is using it needs to believe it can help them, it may not be for everyone. But there are players and teams that are willing to bring in new technology to better themselves.
Finally, whilst it is true that VR is a great tool and can help players and teams we must remember.
It is the player and the coaches that ultimately matter, this is just a tool to help them enhance their talents through hard work.
When there is success, we lay it on the player, they have done it!