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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Gymcats flip over new technology

    NCAA regulations only allow three coaches to be on the staff of any gymnastics team, but Arizona has just added a whole new set of eyes to its already outstanding gymnastics facility.

    With the addition of beefed up iMacs, running the innovative Dartfish program and industrial high-speed cameras, the Mary Roby Center now offers the Gymcats a training tool for years to come.

    “”This really was an innovative idea,”” said UA Director of Video and Technology Matt George. “”A system like this will truly allow the team to view crystal clear shots of their routines and see the fine details of posture and form that are so crucial to the sport. Normal cameras would totally blur if we tried to do something like this with them.””

    Even the tech support at the Dartfish base in Fribourg, Switzerland had its doubts with running the program on iMacs, but the effort and creativity of all the personnel involved has truly given UA Gymnastics quite the impressive technological advantage.

    “”A picture is always worth a thousand words,”” said UA head coach Bill Ryden. “”This new system is really going to help because it completely breaks down the communication gap we used to face. Now we can train and just point at the screen to show the athlete exactly what we’re talking about.””

    Dartfish allows Arizona coaches to time lapse, super impose routines and even calculate air-time distances and the angles of dismounts.

    “”(In years past) we used to have to drag out all the camcorders and it was such a hassle to tape practices.”” Ryden said. “”Now we have this instantaneous, convenient system at our hands any day of the week.””

    The coaching staff feels the new equipment will be most valuable in the beginning of future seasons – the time the gymnasts will be trying to hone in new skills – but the new technology has offered ample potential in just the few weeks its been up and running.

    Gymnastics is a sport full of fine tuning, and scores often reflect that sheer precision. With all the new additions to the Mary Roby Center, the team feels confident that its attention-to-details mentality will greatly improve.

    “”It’s easy to fix gross motor movements,”” Ryden said. “”But visually, these cameras will shine a new light on precision gymnastics.””

    This addition to the UA practice facility has been in the works for a number of years, but the team is satisfied with the finished product.

    “”This facility is as good as anything in the entire country as far as I’m concerned,”” Ryden said. “”It’s been a brain child of mine for, probably, over four years, and it was quite a logistical nightmare in the beginning. All in all though, everyone really worked well together and this was a huge group effort.””

    With such an intricate system that combines cameras from Germany and lenses from Switzerland, it’s no doubt that it took a lot of planning to guarantee a solid project.

    “”I’m always a stickler about how things look,”” Ryden joked. “”So I really had to stick to my guns in the design and say, ‘You know, I want these computers here, to hang like pictures over there,’ and stuff like that.

    “”I’ll tell you what though, people like the drywall guy that came in, were artists,”” he added. “”This finished product looks awesome.””

    The construction phase of the project was a complicated task. The whole facility basically had to be gutted inside and out to account for all the transfers of fiber-optic cables and new outlets to accompany the computers.

    “”We are so thankful that the UA is so deeply dedicated to its athletics,”” Ryden said. “”It’s projects like this that really help drive home the message that this university is completely committed to helping its athletes be the absolute best they can be.””

    According to Ryden and team manager Brina Weissman, the new equipment is top of the line and should remain so for some time to come.

    “”Being an engineer, I’ve always been a firm believer in going high quality with materials,”” Ryden said.

    Besides the obvious advantages of utilizing a high-tech camera system for training, UA Gymnastics athletic trainer Doug Contaoi, admits that this new system has a lot of potential in assuring that his athletes remain safe and healthy.

    “”This all should help a lot from a diagnostic standpoint. I don’t always see an athlete go down at the time,”” Contaoi said. “”So now I can review injuries on the delayed feed video and come up with a more accurate diagnosis. The system also allows me to review archived footage and decide whether an injured athlete is healthy enough to compete based on the intensity of their routines.””

    A few weeks ago, Contaoi viewed footage of a Britnie Jones fall during practice and was able to refer to her previous routines to determine she would indeed be capable of competing on her then-injured elbow.

    “”This system will be huge from a recruiting standpoint as well,”” George said.

    Having already acquired a strong name and reputation in the sport, a tech-savvy facility is just one more addition to the lures of the UA gymnastics program. The renovation of Mary Roby center was quite the journey for all involved, but this edge should prove to be well worth the wait.

    “”Dr. Frankenstein may have had his monster,”” Ryden said. “”But I have this gym, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.””

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