Every year, sports video games become more realistic. To the untrained eye, they may even appear to be the real thing. Despite their realism, however, substituting video games for practice will lead you closer to becoming a couch potato than an athlete. Yet it does appear that playing video games in your spare time may provide some performance benefits.
According to various hockey players and coaches, controlling the world’s best on screen helps inspire creativity and skill development from an early age on the ice. “My son scored three goals this weekend with a move I’ve never seen him do,” said Craig Wilson, a youth hockey coach in Maine who operates Maine Blizzard Hockey. “I asked, ‘Where did you get the move?’ He responded NHL 11, when he practiced it on screen in the shootout.”
Although encouraging creative playmaking is important, the true benefits of video games are the ability to view the game from a different perspective, to see how plays unfold and to develop a deep understanding of your teammates’ positioning in a specific situation.
Bob Nielsen, a Philadelphia-area high school hockey coach and founder of IceHockeyDrills.info, said, “If a benefit, it’s maybe teaching systems…from looking at things from a higher perspective.”
Increasing exposure to your sport with video games may yield performance benefits on the field, court or rink. You may be able to avoid a defender with a crafty move inspired by your favorite player, or set up a play that you wouldn’t have executed prior to seeing it in a video simulation.
Always remember, though, that video games should not substitute for or detract from your practice and training schedule, which are the true sources of improved athleticism and performance.