Getting a leg up

How the new High Performance Centre has helped the women’s soccer team prepare for the 2015 season

Photo by Carolyne Kroeker

This season, the University of Manitoba Bisons will be using some new technology.

The High Performance Centre for Bison athletes is right across from the new Active Living Centre on the U of M’s Fort Garry Campus. The women’s soccer team is one of many squads taking advantage of this new facility.

“Having that facility has increased the motivation level of the players 100 times,” said women’s soccer head coach Vanessa Martinez-Lagunas. “Sometimes we have to say that’s enough, time to go home.”

The High Performance Centre has professional equipment that no other Canadian universities, and not many other NCAA schools, have.

“We have the best sporting facilities in Canada, and the best equipment in Canada,” Martinez-Lagunas said. “Not even NCAA Division 1 schools have what we have now, so it’s fantastic.”

One example is the Smart Scan system, which uses LED lights to measure an athlete’s acceleration and responsiveness, captured on the 30-metre track inside the facility. The Smart Scan technology aids in fitness tests and motivates the players to always improve and get better by milliseconds.

Other new technology includes devices connected to barbells to track velocity, and a computer system to log data. Each individual also has a personalized wristband, which they use in connection with the Smart Scan to track progress.

There are two advantages to having this top-level equipment. It not only helps the athletes improve their overall performance, but also gives them the chance to use their newfound knowledge of the devices at an elite level. According to Martinez-Lagunas, having the knowledge in training is one of the first steps to upping your game and potentially making it to the national level, much like Olympic bronze medallist and former U of M standout Desiree Scott.

“If we develop more athletes of Desiree’s calibre, then all of them are going to be trained, and they will know how to work with this equipment, so it wouldn’t be new to them,” Martinez-Lagunas said.

The U of M’s strength and conditioning coach Matt Barr also aids Martinez-Lagunas by overseeing the athletes’ progression.

Barr is a former elite-level rugby player who holds a masters of science degree in biomechanics and coaching from the University of Western Ontario. He is also a certified strength and conditioning specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and holds a Level II Olympic Weightlifting certification.

The U of M alumnus has helped change the culture of strength and conditioning on campus by making training sessions mandatory.

“[Strength and conditioning] has become a lot more structured and a lot more scientific,” Barr told UM Today. “Now, it’s at the point where it’s an essential part of the training that’s incorporated.”

Put all these aspects into play, and the herd has the recipe for a winning formula, which will hopefully lead to a playoff berth this season.