“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.”
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.”
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.
“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.
“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.
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!