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Can You Learn About Sports Through Gaming?

american football education football training gaming john madden madden 24 Feb 21, 2024

As crazy as it may sound, you can become a better athlete by gaming! Let me explain with a brief history lesson.


When Trip Hawkins, founder of EA Sports, first founded the company, he needed a face to help sell his new football video game. He approached several key football figures including the likes of Joe Montana. All of them declined the opportunity as gaming wasn't seen as a major industry at that time. Then Trip Hawkins approached John Madden.


At the time, Madden was a coach, former player, broadcaster, and taught a football course at Cal Berkeley. His mission was to help educate people about the game of football to help it grow in popularity.


When EA Sports approached John Madden about using his likeness for the video game, Madden had one stipulation. The original version of the video game was intended to be a 7-on-7 game instead of 11-on-11. John Madden said that EA Sports could use his likeness as long as the video game was 11-on-11. The reason is, fans could start to understand the game of football better if they could practice play calling, simulate scenarios, and run actual football plays in the video game. The inception of the Madden video game we know today started because John Madden wanted to use it as an educational tool for the next generation of football fans.


Fast forward to 2024, and the gaming industry has erupted, technology is so advanced, but people have strayed away from using the game for its intended purpose.


Below, I'm going to list 5 ways gaming can make you a better football player in hopes that people leverage gaming, and start using a tool that can rapidly improve their on-field playing ability.


1) Breaking Down Concepts Using Madden's colorful graphs


In a cover 3 defense, you have three deep defenders on the field, two defenders in curl flats, two hook curl zones, and four defenders rushing the QB. The curl/flats help the outside deep thirds with all the short and intermediate throws closer to the sideline while the hook/curl zones help out the single high safety with all the short and intermediate throws over the middle of the field. Were you able to get all of that? Let's try it again with some Madden Content:

In a cover 3 defense, you have three deep defenders on the field.

Two defenders in curl flats. The curl/flats help the outside deep thirds with all the short and intermediate throws closer to the sideline.

Two hook curl zones that help out the single high safety with all the short and intermediate throws over the middle of the field.

Four defenders rushing the QB.

Utilizing the colorful graphics provided for us in Madden creates a dynamic learning environment where players can visually see the concepts coaches are talking about. It can be difficult to grasp these concepts when coaches are explaining them with words, pointing to spots of grass during walk-throughs, or drawing confusing images on a chalkboard.  With Madden, we can bring these concepts to life so players can see how they function instead of hearing or imagining how they function.


2) Practice play calling in various scenarios

A trend in professional football is that first-time head coaches are getting younger and younger. McVay (Rams), LaFleur (Packers), and McDaniel (Dolphins) are all first-time head coaches who got their start in their 30s. What do they all have in common? They claimed to have years of play-calling experience before they ever got their first chance in the pros. But how?


Well thanks to John Madden, there is an 11-on-11 simulation that can help them do just that! Don't take my word for it, listen to this interview with 2024 NFL Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski of the Cleveland Browns! 


3) Practice Managing the clock

Many youth coaches practice the two-minute drill, but how many practice the 10-minute drills or 8-minute drills? Not many and for many players and coaches, managing the middle part of the game is something that they only get practice in when the moment comes. It will take a coach years of training to understand how to properly manage the middle part of the game. When to take a risk and go for it vs punting the ball away. How to win the field position battle when both offenses are struggling. People often prepare for managing the beginning and end of the game, but rarely think of how to manage the middle.


Through Madden, we can recreate game scenarios that will help athletes. Now, it won't be an athlete's first time seeing this scenario. It's their 100th or 1000th.


4) Unique camera angles not offered in traditional football

When attacking a zone coverage it would be advantageous to attack the area above the linebackers but below the deep defenders.

This is what it looks like from a Quarterback's Point of View.



This is what it looks like when you use Madden's camera angles.

Throwing lanes and many other concepts can be deceiving when you only see them from the same angles. What looks covered from the ground looks much more open from a bird's eye view. Madden has given us access to view the field in ways that only NFL and high and college teams can see it from.


5) Learn how their responsibilities impact the greater picture

When a coach takes a player through walk-throughs, players often hear what their responsibility is and where they are supposed to be, but many of them zone out when the coach isn't speaking about their role. Players are robots following instructions, but they are not playing football. I like to think about this scene from Modern Family when I think about youth football players knowing only their role, but not understanding the team coverage. 


We want our players to be free, stick to their responsibility, but feel comfortable taking calculated risks.  When players understand their role AND scheme well, they play fast, free, and physical because they can anticipate plays and understand where they can be aggressive because of their understanding of where they have help in their coverage. 


If you want you or an athlete you know is looking to rapidly increase their football IQ, and become the smartest player on the field, check out where we have created a curriculum around gaming to help your athletes become smarter football players!  

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