During the high school football break, the Manchester football team discovered that its MVP had no head.
For that matter, he has no arms and no legs and he certainly can’t carry a soccer ball.
Affectionately known to the team as “Robot Robby,” it’s a robotic catching dummy that not only revolutionized the game, but also practice for coach Jay Brophy.
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MVP, or Most Virtual Player, is the result of a collaboration between Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens and a group of engineers from the school.
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It was created seven years ago and within two years was used by more than 40 colleges, 75 high schools and half of the NFL.
In those three years, Dartmouth had fewer injuries and the Big Green led the Ivy League in tackles.
Brophy saw the MVP article while watching the Dartmouth game and spoke with WAKR’s (1590-AM) Ray Horner about it.
Horner contacted Teevens and the rest is history.
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“They had 58 percent fewer concussions, and 21 out of 22 players played the entire season,” Brophy said. “Buddy Teevens told me he would never go back to live tackling. See the article : The USA holds on in the final stretch for victory over Jamaica in the women’s 4x100m relay at World Athletics. Everyone thinks we’re not guessing. We do more of that.
“He doesn’t have an arm or a leg, so you have to wrap yourself around him with this. How many times, and I see this too many times, do you see guys wrestling with their shoulders? Guys break the catcher or force the catcher out of bounds. I hate that.”
MVP, who weighs 165 pounds and stands 5-foot-6, is operated remotely. It can reach speeds of 28 miles per hour and takes three to five hours to charge.
It can go forward, backward, cut a coin and spin.
What it does more than anything else is teach technique and that was the preference of Manchester Athletic director Brody Jackson, who bought one for $3,800.
“You see that stuff in NFL training camps, but I never thought we’d have that technology in Manchester,” Jackson said. “Jay was really excited about it. He never really asks me anything. I asked several people in higher positions than me and it was a simple process.
“When they first got it, I know they were like little kids. It has a remote control. I’m sure they wore it out in the first three hours. They were doing rebounds in the practice I saw, and they were going full speed kicking the crap out of that thing. He really impressed me.
“It used to be that you would kick a freshman out and it would scar them for life. I think of my days playing in Manchester and getting beaten up. Now, that takes everything away. Freshmen and sophomores can now hit people instead of being hit.”
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“It was great,” two-way lineman Austin Metz said. “You can hit it like it’s something else. You can’t hit your teammates hard, but you can hit that thing hard. I’m much better. This teaches you accuracy. It helps because it moves. You don’t know which way it’s going.
“The operations are faster. It’s a little weird, but we’re going to be 100 percent better.”
As soccer seems to be becoming a safer sport, MVP teaches proper technique. Try to grapple with your hand and lie on the ground. Throw your shoulder into it, it bounces off and continues on.
He’s learning about angles and wrapping, but most of all he’s learning about safety.
“We take it out for two to four hours and use it in kickoffs,” Brophy said. “They started to set up naivety. If you start hitting guys like that, all of a sudden the guys bend over. If I send a blocker at you and a guy hits it, that guy won’t come out like that again.
“This fool doesn’t care. Blow it up. He reciprocates in kind. You have to find it and tackle it. Children are not afraid. You become stiff or blocked in a certain way, you don’t like it. A doll doesn’t do that. He’s just a puppet. Don’t hit me. He is not my friend and I will not hurt anyone. You get that confidence when you do that.”
Manchester practices are safer and a lot more fun
When Brophy looks over the touchline during training, it looks less like a M*A*S*H unit and more like a Manchester team out to get him. To see also : Video Game Music Conference ‘High Score’ Announced For October.
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“I loved it,” said two-way lineman Ethan Spieth. “My first thought was that it’s cool how it can move, spin backwards. It’s crazy because it can pop back up. I’m already a better striker.
“I’m a high school graduate and I haven’t seen anything like this with a doll. Everyone is more energetic. It’s livelier. It’s fun to hunt the doll. If it’s your friend, maybe you won’t hit him so hard. Here, you hit as much as you want. You want it. It’s something new. It’s different. It’s the most fun I’ve had training in the last three years.”
It amplifies mistakes and really brings the team together even more.
There’s still the usual banter, but there’s also the Panthers’ collective front to learn from and have fun in the process.
“He goes out there and gets things out of him over and over again,” Brophy said. “It’s a game changer because when you turn it on, it’s not like the guy hurt his leg. Now everyone wants to jump in. They want to get a big chance. ‘Let me hit that fool.’
“When we brought it out, the kids wanted to hit it. They chased that thing all over the field. They’re learning that they can hit a 165-pound dummy that’s 5-foot-6 and they’re not afraid to tackle it. They want to do it again and again.”
Contact Brad Bournival at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @bbournival.