A remote-controlled but extremely-mobile tackling dummy is now available for Saskatchewan minor league football teams to practise on.
Saskatoon businessperson David Dubé, president of SportBox Entertainment Group, has donated an MVP Drive, or Mobile Virtual Player, to Football Saskatchewan.
The dummy, which costs up to $13,000 per unit and can operate for three hours before it needs a charge, will be housed at the Saskatoon Minor Football Field.
"This is the future," said Jeff Yausie, Football Saskatchewan's executive director, during a demonstration of the robot on the field Friday.
'A lot safer'
Yausie said strategies that reduce the amount of contact between human beings during practices are gaining steam across football leagues, to the point where practices without any physical contact between players is "absolutely" coming in the future.
"You don't have to hit kids, or have kids hitting kids, or boys hitting boys, or girls hitting girls — we can learn all the right concepts by hitting bags," said Yausie.
Dubé agreed dummies make the game safer.
"It's a great game, but it's a violent game, and if you can practise and learn how to hit properly on this guy, it will be a lot safer to play the game."
Teams such as the Saskatoon Hilltops and Saskatoon Valkyries will use the machine, but it's available to anyone coming to the field, said Dubé.
"A number of NFL teams and NCAA teams are actively using them and have been for a year," said Dubé.
The robot can move around the field quickly, as was demonstrated Friday. Coaches can direct its movements with a remote control.
"A coach in his 20s? They'll have this thing dialled in within 10 minutes," said Dubé.