Identifying effective methods to train decision making outside of regular training is of interest to athletes & coaches of many sports.
A common decision making training method is to present 2D vision of a simulated match on a large screen, and ask player’s to make fast decisions at specific moments. For instance, the vision might be captured from the perspective of a specific player on the field or court, and when the ball is passed to this player, the player watching the vision needs to make a decision.
A limitation of this training is that the 2D vision does not allow the athlete to couple their head movements with the image on the screen. However, new technology – 360° camera’s and Virtual Reality headsets – have made this possible.
Derek Panchuk and colleagues from the Australian Institute of Sport conducted a study that aimed to assess the effectiveness of decision making training when 360° vision and a VR headset was used (referred to as Immersive Visual Training).
18 elite youth basketball players (9 male and 9 female) aged 17 years participated in the study. Players were divided into two groups:
- Training Group (n = 11).
- Control Group (n = 7)
The training group completed 10 or 12 sessions of immersive visual training in addition to their regular training. The immersive visual training required players to watch scenario’s from a small sided game in a virtual reality headset. The scenario’s were captured with a 360° camera during training. The players’ task was to verbally indicate the decision that they would make when the ball was passed to them.
The control group completed their regular training, but took no part in any immersive visual training.
Player’s decision making was assessed before and after the training intervention. Decision making was assessed in an immersive decision making task (i.e.., wearing the Virtual Reality headset) a as well during a small sided game in training.
The findings were mixed.
For the males, the training group displayed non-significant but larger improvements in decision making skill than the control group. This was evident in both the immersive decision making task and the small sided game.
For the females, both groups showed similar improvements in the immersive decision making task, but the control group displayed larger improvements in the small sided game.
The authors suspected that the unexpected results for the females may have been due to the small sample size in the control group.
Although the results were not clearly in favour of immersive visual training, a key aspect of this training is that it causes no harm to athletes and it does not interfere with regular training. As the authors stated:
“… there was no detriments in performance as a result of using immersive video and, given the potential value of training observed, we would recommend using immersive video as a perceptual training tool..”
Additionally, the authors reported that players provided positive feedback regarding the impact of immersive visual training on their decision making ability. Hence, immersive visual training (via a 360° camera and a Virtual Reality headsets) could be a valuable tool in an athlete’s training program, so long as it does not replace actual on-field training.
Panchuk, D., Klusemann, M. J., & Hadlow, S. M. (2018). Exploring the Effectiveness of Immersive Video for Training Decision-Making Capability in Elite, Youth Basketball Players. Frontiers in psychology, 9.