WVU gymnast Amanda Carpenter was the Pennsylvania all-around champion as a high school sophomore in 2008, but didn’t have a lot of attention after that. She’s been productive for the Mountaineers, especially on the balance beam, a rather particular apparatus that programs seek performers on every season.
Why she ended up at WVU isn’t as important as how she ended up at WVU. Carpenter was a product of WVU’s recruiting endeavors with YouTube.
“We didn’t know anything about her,” Doak said. “Turns out she was injured and hadn’t competed in a year. We went back and found video of her and all of a sudden it was, ‘Wow, who is this kid?’”
WVU spends more money on recruiting now, but does so more wisely than before as the Mountaineers are better able to locate and research gymnasts before making visits to get to know them.
They might travel greater distances to get to a certain club these days, but in the past WVU didn’t always know about those gymnasts because they didn’t have the urge to go so far. YouTube clips, compiled by gymnasts and their coaches, teammates and parents on phones or flip cams throughout their high school and club careers, are widely and readily available assets that have made the practice of discovering and discussing gymnasts easier than ever.
Video has become a significant part of WVU’s entire operation, covering everything from how the student-athletes work in meets and practices to how they actually arrive on campus. For the past few years, recruits and college coaches have given more time and attention to YouTube. Prospective gymnasts can market and promote themselves and coaches can search for and evaluate all the possibilities.
“It’s let us get to know a lot of kids,” Butts said. “It’s opened doors to kids not at the level we recruit and it’s made it easier for the ones we try to find. We get numerous emails from kids not at the level we recruit, but it’s just as easy for them to get that information in front of us.”
It’s more involved than that because the coaches have had to acquire a discerning eye to sort through and gauge the endless library of information at their fingertips.
“When something is too professional, that turns me off sometimes,” Doak said. “I’d like them to just put up a routine that shows it off and doesn’t hide anything. Anytime when people crop little routines together of individual skills, they’re hiding
Consider all of that and understand video is far more valuable than for just recruiting at WVU.
Go to a practice at the Cary Gym and you’ll find everything you’d expect to find at a gymnastics training center. But you’ll also find flat screen televisions mounted to walls near the beam, bars, vault and floor.
The Mountaineers have a completely wireless setup where iPads are mounted to tripods and record the routines in practice. When a gymnast is done, she already knows what went right or wrong. The recordings on the televisions supplement their hunches.
“The first thing they do now that they’ve gotten used to it is the second they hit the mat, they turn right around to watch what they’ve just done,” Butts said. “It’s actually kind of eliminated us in some situations.”