Two-a-day workouts, studying a playbook, watching locker room footage: these are some old-school ways for a young football player to improve their knowledge of the game. The newer, and much more popular way, however, is picking up a video game controller.
In a report from the Washington Post's Jesse Dougherty, high school football players and coaches alike use the popular EA Sports video game Madden as a tool to hone their skills, learn the game and expand their terminology.
"I've had coaches say, 'Go play Madden, go try things on there,'" said Ty Lenhart, a DC-area high school quarterback. "When you run concepts with your team, and then in Madden you see the same concepts but you see different tweaks and stuff, I think it really helps you understand the point of the play and the goal of it."
The game was launched in 1998 and has released newer, more sophisticated versions nearly every year since. Developers now use input from current and former NFL players and coaches, and incorporate real playbooks. The Post's Doughtery also spoke with a coach who said he uses plays directly from video games, and quarterbacks who similarly study the game closely.
The game's producer, Rex Dickson, reportedly goes to coaching clinics and works with pro NFL players who also love playing the game, including Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
"The number one thing I've heard is probably reading coverages and understanding play concepts," Dickson told the Post.
As the story accurately points out, video games might not make you bigger, stronger or faster. But playing Madden manages to be both fun and educational, and high school football teams are more than willing to take advantage of that.
"A downside is that kids now are less likely to go out and play pickup like they used to, so the football instincts aren't always there," said D.C.-area coach Andy Stefanelli. "But the level of football understanding is definitely higher and they are great visual learners, and I think that is because of the video games. Almost all of these kids have been playing it their whole lives."