The Wonder Years



Before there was the iPhone and the iPad. Before the small digital cameras of the 90's or the shoulder-mounted VHS camcorders of the mid-80's with the 4"x7" recorded cassettes that could be replayed over and over, there was a movie camera which was my only option when I wanted to watch technique with an athlete.


Released by Kodak in 1965 the first Super 8mm camera was intended for amateur filmmakers and home movies, the poor man's answer to something that could be shown at holidays and family gatherings. The one you see used on "The Wonder Years" with the bad focus and the herky-jerky motions.


In 1983 I could no more afford the latest VHS camcorder ($1200!) let alone an old $40 Super 8, so I checked one out from the Audio-Visual department at the Drake library, given permission to use the camera for three weeks at a time.


Each cartridge had 2.5 minutes.


On Monday I put it to use filming Holly at high jump practice, taking ten or so jumps at 5'4" or higher, sending the cartridge to the Kodak processing lab in Minneapolis Tuesday morning, waiting patiently for the processed (it cost $6) 8mm film to arrive - maybe by the following Monday...if I was lucky.


Once the season began I could film her high jumping at weekend meets, so if I got it to the post office Saturday afternoon it might arrive six days later on Friday afternoon, both of us excited to project the image on my office wall as we watched the movie of her flop. We were transfixed by the images.


It was as thrilling as a Saturday matinee!


On technique days I brought the developed 8mm film and an old projector into the Drake fieldhouse, setting it up anywhere near an outlet and low lighting, pointing out needed changes as we practiced so she could implement them into the J-shaped approach and bar clearance.


I guess the effort must have helped because Holly's best at the time was 5'10" and she jumped 5'11.5" that indoor season (and barely missed this 6' jump at the NCAA meet) and 5'11 outdoors, tying for 12th and 1/2 point at the Outdoor NCAA Championships in Eugene.


An 8mm camera revolutionized my coaching!


Thirty years later can you imagine how I reflected on the ease of showing my high jumpers a video from my phone only seconds after the jump? Crazy. If they only knew.


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