ALABAMA GYMNASTICS FACILITIES
Whether for practice or competition or the time in between, the Alabama gymnastics program utilizes some of the finest athletics facilities in the nation and those facilities continue to get better all the time.
The Frances Smith Gymnastics Practice Facility
Long one of the most spacious and well-designed training gyms in the nation, the Frances Smith Gymnastics Practice Facility was revitalized during the summer of 2012, giving it a new look that included all new crimson matting among other amenities.
"Since we moved in after the 1996 season, our facility has been one of the best in the nation, but this summer's renovations really took it to a new level," Sarah Patterson said. "When you step inside, you're in a facility worth of champions."
The new look includes reminders of the Crimson Tide's rich championship heritage, including larger than life murals of the Tide's 2012 NCAA Championship team and the 2011 Southeastern Conference Championship team, as well as several Alabama legends.
The passageway that leads from the gym, also features seven images that are highlighted by words that define Crimson Tide gymnastics' tradition of excellence.
"As we were preparing for this renovation, we asked our alumni to help us come with words that defined what Alabama gymnastics was all about," Sarah Patterson said. "We were able to the incorporate the seven words that they came up with - tradition, family, excellence, heart, service, champions and leadership - throughout our facilities. I think it's one of the more meaningful testaments to what our program stands for."
The Tide's team suite also received some upgrades during 2012, including new hot and cold therapy tubs in the gymnastics training room.
"Expanding our training room's therapy room to include both hot and cold tubs is one of those things that will pay immediate dividends in terms of helping our ladies recover after practices," Sarah Patterson said. "It's just another way we can help them be the best that they can be."
All aspects of the complex come together in a marriage of form and function that gives Alabama a training edge. That is important to the coaching staff, which spent countless hours in designing the 12,500-square foot gym, but the most important aspect of the space isn't readily apparent to the casual observer.
"Our facility was designed to totally minimize and alleviate impact on the gymnasts," Sarah Patterson said. "Not only is it a beautiful facility, but if you look closely, you will notice that it was designed with the gymnasts' bodies in mind."
Multiple soft landing pits are available for all four apparatus, giving the Tide the freedom to train skills in enhanced safety. It also gives Alabama the capability of teaching a variety of skills at the same time.
"We have the equipment and space to choose how we want to run practice," David Patterson said. "We can split into two or three groups or we can all be on one event if we are having an intra-squad. It gives us the freedom to do that or to have everyone on four different events at the same time. We have the room and the staff to do that and be effective with it. Also, we put enough diverse things into the design of the facility where it is very helpful in terms of teaching new skills."
The main practice area includes an in-ground trampoline and tumbling strips. The sound system that drives the Tide's practices is top-notch, surrounding the floor exercise area with the same level of sound Alabama will encounter in a meet setting.
The practice gym also includes a state of the art video analysis system, provided by the Tide's booster organization, The Medalist Club.
"It is an unbelievable tool in the gym," Bryan Raschilla said. "It's like having three extra coaches."
The system has several playback and analysis options that are in use every day in practice and allows the coaches to provide instant feedback on a routine. Having three complete systems in the gym running at all times allows the coaches and gymnasts constant analysis. The system also helps compress the time it takes to make a change to a skill or routine, allowing the gymnasts to get more out of each practice.
"It's a huge help for us," senior All-American Ashley Priess said. "It allows you to make corrections quicker, which ultimately helps you improve faster and more efficiently."
In addition to a variety of playback options, the coaches can also compare and contrast routines using a variety of tools within the Dartfish Pro software.
"If we really want to get in-depth and break down technique and skills we can use the system's SimluCam and StroMotion features which were both used at the Olympic Games," Raschilla said.
The video system is just the newest addition to Alabama's state-of-the-art training facility, which is part of the Coliseum annex completed in 1996. The main practice space boasts a design that is at once attractive and extremely functional. The equipment is all arranged to make the flow of practice extremely fluid. There are five uneven bars stations, six balance beams, two vaults and an oversized floor in place.
A separate 2,000-square foot aerobics/dance studio is connected to the main practice area and includes the crimson Tide's cardio equipment as well as a separate sound system that is utilized during the Tide's workouts.
In addition to a fully equipped training room, the Tide's team suite includes the locker room as well as a team room that includes study and computer stations and a meeting space.
"Our goal is to always ensure that our ladies have everything that they need to be successful and our team suite is part of that commitment," Sarah Patterson said. "From a study area and team meeting room to having a training room positioned between our practice gym and competition arena, our facilities are amazing."
There are few atmospheres better in collegiate athletics than a gymnastics Friday night in Coleman Coliseum - from the roar of the crowd when Alabama marches in through the last routine. That atmosphere has only improved over the last several years following major upgrades to the the main arena of Coleman Coliseum aimed at enhancing the meet-day atmosphere. The new amenities feature an array of state-of-the-art video boards, including a center-hung display that features four massive, high-definition video panels flanked by two video rings. The entire unit weighs more than 12,000 pounds. The center-hung display is accompanied by a pair of video and stat displays on each end of the facility.
The latest enhancements also include more floor seating for the fans, bringing the crowd closer than ever before to the action.
Coleman Coliseum saw its greatest transformation prior to the 2006 season when the entire facility was updated in grand fashion. Behind a bold modernized facade, the interior lobbies and concourses were expanded and upgraded. In the main seating area, 15,000-plus seats, all theater style, welcome gymnastics crowds along with a 6,400-square foot club area along the east side of the arena.
All this enhances Coleman Coliseum's reputation as one of the best places in the nation to watch gymnastics. Since the gymnastics team began competing in the Coliseum in the late-1980s, Alabama has hosted some of the biggest gymnastics meets in the country including the 1991, 1996 and 2002 NCAA Championships and the 1988, 1993 and 1999 SEC Championships. The Tide hosts its 13th NCAA Regional Championship in the spring of 2013.
The Coaches Office Suite
The Coliseum also houses the gymnastics coaches office suite, which was renovated during the summer of 2012 to highlight a championship legacy that includes six national championships, seven Southeastern Conference titles as well as countless individual accolades. In addition to the coaches' offices, the suite includes a conference room and a workroom as well as offices for gymnastics' administrative staff.
The overall renovation to the Tide's athletic facilities, which entailed a more than $200 million capital building campaign, also included a new spacious strength and conditioning center and an athletic training center that is among the nation's very best. Both facilities are located in the Mal Moore Athletic Facility adjacent to Coleman Coliseum.
Directions to Coleman Coliseum
From Interstate 20/59 take Exit 73 on Highway 82 East (McFarland Boulevard). Continue on to the University Blvd. exit and turn right on to University Blvd. Continue on University Blvd. and immediately get in the left lane on to Paul W. Bryant Drive. Go past DCH Hospital on the left and into the University of Alabama campus. Coleman Coliseum is located on the left across from the Bryant Museum and Conference Center. Enter the main entrance to the Alabama Athletics Complex and drive directly to the front entrance of the Coliseum. The street address of Coleman Coliseum is 1201 Coliseum Drive, Tuscaloosa, AL, 35401.