What began in the 1930s as a local business repairing football shoes, has evolved into Rogers Athletic, one of the most forward-thinking and highly regarded manufacturers of football training equipment in the U.S. And they don’t even make footballs.
Since day one safety has been core competency and strategy number one. And it’s no different today, 90 years later. Only now Rogers Athletic do it even better – by drawing from their three-generations long connection, commitment and thorough understanding of the game. Football is in the Rogers’ blood. A fact that has established them as elite designers and manufacturers of some of the industry’s newest and most advanced training equipment: from muscle-specific exercise machines to their breakthrough MVP DRIVE robotic tackling dummy.
Football is a game of collisions
Players hit, smash, collide and tackle, all in an attempt to stop their opponent from scoring. It’s that kind of intense physicality that makes football so exciting, but at the same time so dangerous.
All these repeated physical encounters can cause serious injuries – from bruises to broken bones to concussions. In fact, player- on-player collisions have become the main cause of concussive injuries at all levels of football – from youth level to professionals playing in the NFL. Reports show that the amount of reported concussions has more than doubled in the last 10 years. And the majority of the injuries occur during practice, not games.
In addition, given football’s short season – September through January – losing players to injury is not only a terrible hardship for the players and their families, but also has serious consequences to the teams, the schools, the league, the fans, and every other person or business associated with the game. Here was a problem in need of tackling. How to provide athletes the required amount and intensity of football practice, while at the same time keeping them from being injured? Turns out Rogers Athletic already had had the right strategy and unique industry expertise to meet that challenge head on. Well, actually, it was their tackling dummy that took things head on.
Meet Mr. “MVP DRIVE”: Rogers Athletic’ Remote Controlled tackling Dummy
Their MVP DRIVE tackling dummy stands nearly 6-feet tall, weighs in at 200 pounds, and moves with the speed, agility and power of a professional football player. In fact, he (no question the dummy is a man) can intelligently imitate most pro football moves – weaving, cutting, stopping and starting. He’s a virtual player who can even run a pro-level 4.8-sec 40-yard dash. That’s the equivalent to running 20 miles per hour.
Paul Rogers, Facilities Manager for Rogers Athletic: “Before we introduced The MVP DRIVE, players were always getting seriously injured by tackling each other in practice. Now, by tackling a dummy, the players end up no worse for wear.”
Another unexpected benefit is that the players‘ tackling ability greatly improved. By tackling the dummy instead of another player, they were able to practice tackling more and for longer.
The Rogers dummy has already proved his value on the field and off: In fact practice dummies have significantly reduced concussive injuries to college athletes. At Dartmouth College, it’s meant a 40 percent reduction in injuries and millions saved in medical costs. Dozens of colleges and universities require the use of dummies during practice. Until now, more than 15 pro teams use the Rogers Group MVP DRIVE and many more have committed to bringing them in. Rogers’ tackling dummies will soon become part of youth and high school football practice.
No pain, all gain
Paul Rogers, again,“You can hit that thing all day long, it doesn’t care. We built it to go ten years without repair.” He goes on to explain that the more the dummy is used, the more they can learn from it. He sees opportunities to outfit the dummy to provide data feedback, images, sound, voice activation, route programming, and other valuable training enhancements.
Paul Rogers: “Learning more about what teams require to stay safe, but without sacrificing the required intensity and frequency of practice, will build on our expertise. And ultimately enable us to apply all we know to find new and even better ways to make the dummy not only safer, but a more effective training partner. It may be a dummy, but it can make all of us smarter.”
Turning knowledge into action
Ask Paul Rogers about the company’s future strategy, he’ll tell you without hesitation it remains the same as it always has been – turning their consummate sports knowledge into smart safety applications. “Our goal has always been to improve the quality of the game by improving the safety of the players. But now we also see op-portunities beyond football.”
Applying what they have learned from developing remote controlled tackling dummies for football practice, Rogers Athletic is perfectly positioned to apply their expertise in other sports and other industries.
Rogers explains that the company is exploring ways to design and manufacture a smaller version dummy for youth football and for lacrosse, as well as dummies specifically meant for non-sport applications, including tactical or first-responder training and the automobile industry. There’s no doubt Rogers Athletic has the kind of expertise and partners required to take on any challenge they set for themselves in the future. And tackle it.
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This article was first published in summer 2017.