Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Madden: useful for players as well?

Remember this post on how NFL coaches should consider using Madden more? Wired has a fascinating piece by Chris Suellentrop talking about how many NFL players already use the game. One of the key voices in their piece is Brandon Stokley, known not only for this ridiculous catch but for the stunning knowledge of clock management he displayed at the end of the play;

In the article, Stokley says he's done that kind of move hundreds of times while playing Madden, but never in a game before. It makes sense, though, as it displays the kind of untraditional awareness of how to work the clock that's so important in Madden, but rarely seen in the NFL. Of course, Madden's good for much more than just clock awareness; as pointed out in the article, players are also using the game to gain awareness of different coverages, offensive schemes and formations. Suellentrop actually makes one of the key arguments from my piece; the real importance of Madden is the sheer amount of hours of actual gameplay situations it allows players and coaches to simulate. Here's one of the crucial parts of the article:

“These games nowadays are just so technically sound that they’re a learning tool,” says Tim Grunhard, an All-Pro center for the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1990s who now coaches high school football in the Kansas City area, where he encourages his players to use Madden to improve their knowledge of football strategy and tactics. “Back when I was playing football, we didn’t realize what a near or a far formation was, we didn’t really understand what trips meant, we didn’t understand what cover 2, cover 3, and cover zero meant,” Grunhard says, charging through jargon that’s comprehensible only to Madden players and football obsessives.

These days, Grunhard says, high school players have a much deeper understanding of offensive formations and defensive coverages, a development he attributes to their long hours on videogame consoles. “It just seemed to help out,” he says. “The kids understood where the counterplay or power play was going to open up. Or the middle linebacker lining up for a blitz — where the gaps were going to open up.”

Now, much like with coaches, this isn't to say that Madden players would suddenly be better than traditional athletes if thrown into a football game. Of course, there's plenty of value in traditional training methods, and there's things they teach such as physical fitness that Madden just won't simulate. Suellentrop makes the excellent analogy that Madden may be like weight training; not good enough on its own, and not something that would turn a non-athlete into an outstanding one, but a tremendous tool to help turn a talented athlete into an elite one. Now, if only we could get coaches to follow in the same path...

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