The latest football technology is here and Texas football teams are embracing it. STRIVR Labs are based in California and are led by co-founder, CEO and former Stanford kicker Derek Belch. Belch worked as an assistant coach with the Cardinal while finishing up his masters degree. His thesis? How virtual reality applies to sports training.
Belch partnered with Professor Jeremy Bailenson of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab and former Stanford quarterback Trent Edwards. The trio worked together to invent a live-action 3-D display that would allow players to experience plays from any direction. Wearing a headset, a player can use the STRIVR system to continue practice even when off the field.
For that reason, the STRIVR system could be invaluable for backups. Players that often don’t see the field during games or practice, now have the opportunity to continue their development in the closest thing to real-life experience. That theory may be put to the test already this season.
The Dallas Cowboys were the first NFL team to implement STRIVR. After building out a room at their Valley Ranch headquarters (just in time for the ‘Boys move to Frisco), STRIVR technology was available for Dallas players. After Tony Romo went down against the Eagles last week, Brandon Weeden will be the starting Cowboys quarterback.
“It blows normal film out of the water. It’s like you’re taking a live rep without throwing,” Weeden said after using the system. Cowboys’ fans everywhere will be hoping the new form of training pays dividends in how the starter reacts to the game. The former first round pick, has unquestionable physical talent but often the hardest transition to the NFL is the speed of the game and the complexity of the defenses being faced. With the help of STRIVR, maybe Weeden has made a big jump.
The Cowboys have long been on the cutting edge of innovation. Under the guidance of Tex Schramm and Gil Brandt, the Cowboys made drastic changes in how scouting, drafting and development were viewed in the National Football League. Perhaps the adoption of STRIVR will be next in the long line of Cowboys leading the way (the Cowboys also began utilizing drones to film practice this summer after checking in with SMU’s Chad Morris who uses drones to film the Mustangs).
Since the Cowboys purchased the system, the San Francisco 49ers and the Minnesota Vikings have joined their ranks at the NFL level. Collegiately, the system is being using by some of college’s blue blood programs and some of their most forward thinkers. While powerhouses, such as, Auburn, Clemson and Arkansas have all adopted STRIVR, many of college football’s most academic programs have added the system as well. To date, Stanford, Vanderbilt and Dartmouth have all utilized STRIVR. Oh, and a fairly well known school from Texas – Rice.
So far coaches have been blown away by the system, “It was one of the few times in your coaching career when you’re watching something and you think, ‘This is a game-changer. This is gonna change the way we teach young men,’” said Brett Bielema. Buddy Teevens of Dartmouth agreed, “This is cutting-edge stuff. Eventually everyone is going to want to have this. This puts us ahead of the curve.”
If Belch has his way, eventually everyone will have it. The system has been designed with professional, collegiate and high school players in mind to help better develop players across all levels. Is STRIVR the next big thing? Will have to wait and find out.
This article was written and researched by Ryan Sprayberry, Collections and Exhibits Manager at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame