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Running and sprinting are simple in theory - put one foot in front of the other as fast as possible. It’s not rocket science, but it is a science. This is why learning proper technique is important at any skill level, especially in competitive settings, where even small mistakes can have significant effects. That’s where Sprint Academy Founder Christian Robinson comes in.
“Our goal is to remove as much guesswork as possible from the education process and replace it with objective measurements that are easy to understand without being overwhelming. We’ve found clarity helps athletes appreciate sprinting,” Robinson said. “People ask how they can get faster, but we ask, ‘Why are you slow? What things are a hindrance to you? What things are holding you back? Where are you lacking?’ If you improve those low-hanging fruits, it’s like removing obstacles for the person to perform at their best.”
To achieve this aim, he developed the Bounce Box, which uses the SparkFun RedStick to provide instant feedback on athlete’s ground contact time, an important metric for sprinting in any sport.
“There are training modalities (sprinting, bounding, jumping, etc.) that rely on executing actions within a very small window of time - usually, it’s less than two tenths of a second for a powerful athletic movement - and the Bounce Box allows us to determine if the training you are doing matches up with what you want to do in the field,” Robinson said. “For instance, you’re standing on top of a box and you’re supposed to jump down and jump up. That time that you ‘boop’ on the ground is really, really important. Yet, when people are using it as a training modality, they have no reference for whether or not their ‘boop’ is too long or too short, or not executed correctly.”
Before designing the Bounce Box, Robinson took stock of what was currently on the market and found it lacking. What did exist was super high-tech, expensive and fragile. Often housed in specialized biomechanics labs, force platforms can give athletes the same type of information as the Bounce Box, but require access to the lab, something typically reserved for elite athletes.
Close up view of the Bounce Box.
“There are many technologies that provide different metrics but I couldn’t find anything rugged that does it simply,” Robinson said. “I wanted something where I could just drop it wherever I needed and be able to determine that the training I was doing was effective.”
The Bounce Box clocks ground contact.
Robinson wanted to bring this technology to the masses, to provide information that even beginners can benefit from. The result? A robust, relatively inexpensive piece of hardware that can provide millisecond-level feedback directly in the field.
“When I’ve put it in front of athletes - testing it with everyone from Olympic to novice high school athletes - they’ve all figured it out, and they’ve all had tremendous fun without it detracting from the learning/training environment,” he said.
Robinson has big plans for the future of Spring Academy and Bounce Box, and hopes to develop and deliver more accurate timing and accessible measurement tools to athletes in all sports that involve sprinting, jumping and accelerating.