GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It’s one thing to be wowed at the sheer power and athleticism of a volleyball player stepping and soaring into a wicked kill during a Florida match.
But it would be another experience to know precisely how high she skied along the way.
Welcome to Verizon Fan Day.
The UF volleyball team will introduce an innovative and scientific system during its first public scrimmage Saturday at the O’Connell Center. It’s called VERT (as in “vertical”) and it’s the brainstorm of UF graduate Martin Matak, who armed with a marketing degree and minor in astrophysics invented an instrument that measures an athlete’s vertical jump in real time and records the data.
Though marketed as a device to assist health staffs in injury prevention and rehabilitation by counting jumps and monitoring the ebbs and flows of vertical heights, Gators coach Mary Wise and her staff thought the VERT could provide a unique interaction experience, with Fan Day the ideal forum to debut that experience.
“Fans in any sport can appreciate a good jump,” said Wise, whose entire roster will be armed with a VERT device. “They may not realize how athletic that dig was, but most people can appreciate seeing someone jump really high.”
And with the VERT, they’ll know exactly how high.
The Gators have used the VERT in practices during the preseason for a variety of functions, including monitoring the number of jumps for players who have dealt with lower body injuries. In the past, the training staff had those players on jump budgets each practice.
“They counted with hash tags and a post-it pad,” Wise said.
Enter VERT, which non-intrusively attaches to the waistband and not only counts jumps, but graphs each and thus delivers real-time calculations that would tell the staff a player is jumping at 80 percent of her maximum -- a true, quantitative figure -- halfway through practice.
Obviously, she’s fatiguing. That’s invaluable data for trainers.
It can work also for healthy athletes, who can use the data to analyze their technique. Maybe a player's jumps are averaging around 23 inches, but then she pops one on the VERT meter at just 17.
In reviewing practice, maybe that VERT data suggests they were too close to the net to get a decent runway on their approach. Or on a block attempt, maybe they needed to load their knees more for a better launch.
The numbers don’t lie.
And fans love numbers.
So imagine the “oohs” and “ahhs” if a fan base introduced to VERT sees a Gator crush a kill and the number “31” lights up on the scoreboard.
“Or better yet,” Wise smiled. “On their cell phone.”
Now, take the next step. To another sport.
Imagine a UF basketball player taking a feed on a fastbreak and throwing down a slam-dunk against Kentucky -- and a “44” torches the screen.
“Which would be awesome,” Wise said. “And don’t you think fans would love that? In a time when we’re trying to get people in the seats, here’s a reason.”
Volleyball gets the first crack.
“It’s fascinating technology and I love that it’s a Gator who is behind it,” Wise said. “He sees a benefit for the sport of volleyball and I think it has a huge upside, too. We know how fortunate we are to be on the ground floor.”