These days, IMG Academy is synonymous with success. For high school athletes wanting to improve their on-field and educational performance, there’s no better place to accomplish both than IMG. With a wealth of instructors, a desire to push the boundaries of what’s possible, and an impressive list of All-Stars and current MLB players that have spent some of their most formative years at the academy, there’s no doubt that what they do yields long-term results.
But IMG isn’t a place that simply rests on its past success. Its goal and mission is to innovate, and provide athletes with insights and training methods that they wouldn’t get elsewhere. So when it came time to take that next leap, and venture further into the next frontier, they turned to WIN Reality.
“I look at what we do in an academy perspective. Our players get a lot of attention when it comes down to our training programs we run here. But when it comes down to creating an approach for players, a lot of technique and a lot of mechanical driven programs are already out there and what we try to do is find the best ones to build in our players…and the WIN VR program is a tool that I absolutely believe in.”
– John-Ford Griffin. Head Hitting Coordinator.
After seeing a first-hand demonstration of the WIN Reality VR program, IMG was hooked. It gave them and their athletes something that had previously not been available to anyone; an ability to practice against game-speed conditions. In years past, if a hitter wanted to train against live pitches, they either had to step into a bullpen session, hope their team would organize an instrasquad matchup, or find themselves lucky enough to be at a facility with an advanced pitching machine rather than the typical “fastball only” machines most players are accustomed to.
But with WIN Reality, batters of all ages can step into the virtual world, and see what exactly they would experience in an actual game scenario. Since installing WIN Reality at their facilities, IMG hitters have seen over 5,000 game-speed pitches – valuable data points and experience that previously wasn’t available to their athletes.
“The thing that separates WIN is that it can recreate the environment – which is the hardest part to recreate in any kind of transferable skill. It can put the baseball player in the actual environment…This helps with the perceptual side of it and keeps their brain engaged and still seeing the ball, and all of those kinds of things that you can’t do in visualization, and you can’t even do in practice even if you’re just hitting off a tee or in BP”. – Taylor Stutzman. Mental Conditioning Coach
In addition to this new method of building a better approach at the plate, Stutzman quickly realized that there was another way to apply WIN Reality. Historically, players that were hurt simply had to sit on the sidelines and wait for their injury to subside. For hitters, this has always hampered their road back to the field, as they need a significant amount of time to get their rhythm back before stepping into a game situation. But with WIN Reality, this time to get back onto the field is cut down considerably, if not eliminated altogether.
“With our injured athletes, I’ve seen it be really beneficial to them because they have a tendency to feel like they’re falling behind if they’re not able to be on the field everyday like the rest of their peers. So they can still get all the reps, and even more reps in a lot of ways than if they were still on the field. When they do get back, 6 months later or however long the injury is, they still feel like they can still see the ball well. It doesn’t feel like they’ve lost any confidence.”
With WIN Reality, IMG has another advanced tool at their disposal, and one that gives their student-athletes a unique edge over their competitors. By being able to create unique training programs for their hitters, and place them into an environment that recreates the conditions of an actual game, IMG is able to accelerate the development of their players in a way that wasn’t previously possible.