There’s An App For That

Iowa State gymnastics coach Jay Ronayne has come up with a new way to communicate with his student-athletes.

Iowa State gymnastics coach Jay Ronayne has come up with a new way to communicate with his student-athletes.

“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” – Plato, The Republic

Life always throws obstacles and challenges and people, ruining our perfectly laid-out days that we go into the day knowing will go perfectly. Sometimes it doesn’t take long for that obstacle to come into range, other times it comes later. Sometimes you get a nice comfortable gap of hours to prepare accordingly, sometimes you get mere minutes. As Epictetus once said, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

Epictetus: Iowa State Gymnastics fan since 55 AD.

Epictetus: Iowa State Gymnastics fan since 55 AD.

When you are the head coach of a collegiate gymnastics program like Iowa State’s Jay Ronayne, that reaction affects more than just himself. It changes the days and lives of his 16 student-athletes, coaches and support staff. When that decision comes from the top, it needs to go out from the top. There have been many ways of communicating these changes over the years: Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride, word of mouth, Morse code, Pony Express, phone trees, emails and mass texting are just some examples over the years. This season, Iowa State gymnastics has a new method of its own: an iPhone app.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” Plato said in The Republic, Ronayne said. “Back in June, I was thinking about how we (the coaching staff) communicate with our student-athletes. We always give them a hard-copy calendar before the season. I asked them again and they said hard copies of the calendar, which we had no problem with. The problem comes that not everyone reads them and things change.”

“Necessity is the mother of invention,”  - Plato in The Repbulic, 380 BC, Jay Ronayne in 2015 AD

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” – Plato in The Repbulic, 380 BC, Jay Ronayne in 2015 AD

Ronayne created an iPhone application “Iowa State Gymnastics” that gives ISU’s gymnasts the team calendar right to their phones. However, it is not just about having the app itself that is crucial to the decision to use it, it is the ability to communicate with the student-athletes that brought about the change.

The front page of the Iowa State Gymnastics App.

The front page of the Iowa State Gymnastics App.

“What I can do with the app is that if I feel there is a change that is important enough for them to know about, I can send it to their phones in the form of a push notification,” Ronayne noted. “It is like a text message, but I know they are going to get it. It seemed like the right thing at the right time, and I created the app.”

So in the same way that we find out that Matt Shoultz favorited one of your Tweets (a big honor, Shoultz doesn’t just hand out favorites), Ronayne can send out a notification saying that a practice time has changed or a reminder that a bus leaves at a certain time. It is not just the technology that has allowed Ronayne to do this, it is the way we consume information today that allowed it.

Need to know when practice is? The app has that.

Need to know when practice is? The app has that.

“I thought about how they communicated amongst themselves and that is through their phones,” Ronayne said. “They text each other, and apps are popular with methods of communicating. I did some research and realized that if I could pull together all the information they needed in one place, it could be through an app that would contain it and fit their purposes.”

The app is not all about a way of sending out practice changes, Ronayne has utilized the app as a one-stop shop for Iowa State Gymnastics. The team travel itineraries, nutritional information, the team handbook, contact information for everyone from student-athletes to support staff (I’m in there, which was surprising and a big honor) and links to the team website and Twitter account (follow us, @CycloneGYM!) are among the items student-athletes can access.

Need to get in touch with someone with Iowa State gymnastics? The app has that info, too.

Need to get in touch with someone with Iowa State gymnastics? The app has that info, too.

This is a big change from the days of … less than a decade ago. A veteran of the gymnastics coaching industry across over 25 years, Ronayne knows well how far the technology has come and how it has made his life easier.

“I remember having to do phone trees,” Ronayne noted. “I would call the team captain, tell her a schedule change and then she would have a group of people to call. After she called those people, they would have people they would call and so on. That is slow and not always effective. After that it was texting, but we were still not getting the message across.”

It is not a method for everyone, it requires technical knowledge to run it and for the student-athletes to have the technical capabilities to receive the updates. However, it does provide another light into the many different ways to accomplish what we need in our lives.

Iowa State Gymnastics? Yeah, there’s an app for that!

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About Patrick Tarbox

I'm in my third year as Assistant Director for Athletics Communications at Iowa State. I work primarily with ISU's volleyball, track and field and gymnastics teams. I worked as a student assistant in the Athletics Communications office from 2008-12, working primarily with swimming and diving along with other sports in minor roles. I got my ISU degree in Journalism and Mass Communications in May 2012. Last year I worked as a Graduate Assistant in the TCU Media Relations office, working with track and field and swimming and diving. I look forward to providing insight on what is going on in and around Iowa State Athletics. I'm on Twitter @PatrickTarbox. Go Cyclones!
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