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Testing the construct validity of a soccer-specific virtual reality simulator using novice, academy and professional soccer players

Wood, Greg and Wright, David and Harris, David and Anal, Pal and Franklin, Zoe and Vine, Sam (2020) Testing the construct validity of a soccer-specific virtual reality simulator using novice, academy and professional soccer players. Virtual Reality: research, development and applications. ISSN 1359-4338 (In Press)

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Abstract

Virtual Reality (VR) provides the potential for immersive and engaging training solutions for improving sport performance. However, if VR training is to be adopted and used in an effective and evidence-based fashion, a more rigorous assessment of the validity of the simulation is required. Construct validity is the degree to which the simulation provides an accurate representation of core features of the task. In the context of sport, if the training drills in the VR environment are a true representation of the skills needed in the real world, then those that excel at the sport in the real world should also excel in the virtual one. In this experiment, we examined the construct validity of a soccer-specific VR simulator by recruiting professional, academy, and novice players. Seventeen participants in each group completed four VR soccer drills and the VR software provided scores relating to performance and process (e.g., passing accuracy, composure, reaction time, and adaptability). Based on these scores, an algorithm gave a diagnostic score relating to the predicted ability of the player. Results showed that this VR platform successfully differentiated between participants of differing skill levels. These results provide some support for the construct validity of this VR simulator and suggest at least partial overlap between the perceptual-cognitive and motor skills needed to perform well across ‘real’ and virtual environments. Further work is needed to explore the validity and fidelity of the simulation before its adoption as a training device can be fully endorsed.

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