A glowing, green two-inch-high stick figure reproducing the long jump or triple jump form of a Carl Lewis or Willie Banks is helping America's elite athletes go to great lengths.
The figure on the screen in James Hay's biomechanics laboratory at the University of Iowa is a digital representation of movie film shot at 100 frames per second. It is a computerized projection of horizontal and vertical acceleration, angle of takeoff and body position in the air."We're trying to find the answers to some basic questions about jumping," Hay said. "We do a lengthy series of statistical analyses of the data. Out of that we put together a 40- to 50-page report with a summary of findings and what we think the athlete needs in terms of practice, what the coach and athlete might direct their attention to."
For example, a 45-page book prepared for triple jumper Mike Conley with data from TAC championship meets in 1983, 1985, 1986 and 1987, is crammed with data describing factors including "velocity changes of center of gravity from touchdown to takeoff of the hop phase."
The athletes like to see the stick figure representations, though.
"These stick figures do tell them where they are in a particular part of the jump," said Dean Hayes, 1988 U.S. Olyjmpic long and triple jump coach, and a coach at Middle Tennessee State University for 23 years.
Hayes said Hay's research, funded by the U.S. Olympic Committee's elite athlete project, is highly prized by jumpers.
"They have confidence in him," the Olympic coach said. "Before, we gathered all this data but didn't know what to do with it. We're now giving the athlete and coach direct feedback. Hay's really done a good job of that."
Coach Tom Tellez, who has worked with Olympain Carl Lewis and his sister Carol at the University of Houston, said Hay's analyses are valuable even when they only back up what the coach and jumper have been doing.
"With Carl and Carol, he's done some good work," Tellez said. "He's reinforced for me a lot of the things I've been doing. For some other coaches and athletes he may have been even more valuable."