Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Adjusting Uneven Bars for Alabama Gymnasts Takes Skill and Speed

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Adjusting Uneven Bars for Alabama Gymnasts Takes Skill and Speed

Article excerpt

The University of Alabama gymnastics team has won six national titles, is ranked No. 4 and is near the top of every high school prospect's list of schools.

But there is an element to the Crimson Tide's success that goes unnoticed, partly because fans miss it if they blink.

When Alabama gymnasts are competing on the uneven parallel bars, assistant coach Bryan Raschilla and team managers are zooming around them. In between routines, they adjust the settings of the apparatus to fit each individual gymnast. They tug and jerk on cables attached to the steel frame of the equipment, delicately and ferociously at the same time, working from memorization alone. They work at a blurring pace to keep things moving, all while under the watchful eye of volunteer coach David Patterson.

He said the speed at which the managers adjust the bars is an art form.

"We've always kind of compared it to a NASCAR pit crew when the car comes in and everybody knows where they're supposed to be," David Patterson said. "They jump into that spot, they do their job, and usually about eight or 10 seconds later it's ready to go."

Raschilla and the managers have to know every little detail about each gymnast's preferences and adjust the equipment accordingly in a matter of seconds.

David Patterson said a lot of the adjustments are based off the gymnast's transition skill getting from the high bar back to the low bar.

They have to make changes based off a gymnast's height, difficulty of the routine and how they start the routine, whether it be with a board or straight from the mat.

"It would be nice to go, 'Okay, everybody go on the same setting,' but we're all not the same," Alabama coach Sarah Patterson said.

The managers even have to practice, just like the gymnasts. They work on their adjustments in the exact same order as will happen in the upcoming meet.

"We practice it quite a bit," David Patterson said, "and it's not just to practice (the adjustments), it's for the athletes to do exactly the same thing that they're doing in the meet."

But the student-athletes are appreciative of the behind-the- scenes routine that assures that the bars are perfectly set. …

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