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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)


Swimmers at the University of Richmond this school year wore wrist devices that analyzed strain, recovery and sleep quality. The waterproof bands, part of the WHOOP Performance Optimization System, provided data that coach Matt Barany says helped his athletes improve performances in the pool and in the classroom.

"For every one idea or concept like this, there are many, many more," said Barany, who has led UR to 11 Atlantic 10 Conference championships and eight times was named the league's coach of the year.

Through a dozen years at Richmond, Barany said he consistently sought professional growth opportunities. On Tuesday, UR named Barany (BEAR-uh-nee) director of athletic innovation. He will remain coach of the women's swimming and diving program, having also received a five-year contract extension. Richmond doesn't sponsor men's swimming and diving.

In his new position, Barany will "use his knowledge and experience with technology and innovation to better the department as a whole," Keith Gill, the Spiders' director of athletics, said in a school release.

Said Barany: "I think if we have a chance for somebody to get their eyes on (technological advances) and maybe even get some practical use, we can bring some important lessons back for the greater good."

Barany credited Gill for his forward-thinking approach. Their discussions regarding innovation and technology, and how they could benefit all Spiders' athletes and coaches, led to creation of the position.

"I don't ever imagine myself as an expert in sports medicine. I don't ever imagine myself as an expert in strength and conditioning," said Barany, a graduate of Clover Hill High School (Class of 1991) and James Madison University (Class of 1995), where he was a standout swimmer.

But the technological frontier is worth exploring, Gill and Barany agreed. Barany, 44, is unaware of any other school that has a comparable position in its athletics department. Corporations constantly analyze ways technology can enhance efficiency and performance. In Barany's view, his job is doing that for UR sports.

"Things are moving so fast, so fast, not just with wearable technology but with video and the ability to get all of the stats for the ball sports," said Barany. "If we don't have somebody watching it, we're going to get smoked."

Barany's responsibility is to stay informed on technological trends as they apply to college athletics, which he has been doing for years. From now on, he regularly will offer suggestions to Gill, who will determine if they should be implemented and how.

Although the obvious advantages of such a plan focus on athletes, Barany sees coaches also benefiting. Coaches typically work long hours and their sleep patterns, stress levels and other factors may not be conducive for optimum performance.

"Keith designed this to be a fluid position, so we can adapt and see where there are opportunities to get better," said Barany, who got his MBA from Richmond in 2014. "I think this can help the administration prepare for what's next. I think it can help campus have an understanding of what's coming along."

(804) 649-6233@RTDjohnoconnor

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