As the daughter of an NFL running back, Rometra Craig got an early lesson in the importance of proper training. She was 9 years old the first time 49ers star Roger Craig took her and her older sister to run "The Hill"
The girls had heard the legend behind the steep peninsula terrain and wanted to try it for themselves. And unlike so many of her dad's NFL teammates, Rometra refused to surrender until she reached the top.
Even if it took awhile.
"I would not stop. I just kept going,'' Rometra recalled. "Since the day I was born, I've had that eye-of-the-tiger thing, that mental toughness. I was going to do whatever I needed to do to reach my goal."
Rometra grew up to be a star basketball player and track athlete at Archbishop Mitty High as well as a nationally ranked tae kwon do competitor.
Now she's doing what she can to help other athletes reach their pinnacle. Rometra Craig, 32, is the brains behind a prototype training device aimed at teaching basketball players the proper shooting form.
Rometra, the founder and CEO of Jumpshot Pro, calls her invention a "smart shooting sleeve." It's a lightweight device that prevents shooters from releasing a shot unless the elbow is properly aligned.
Her goal is to give young players a way of practicing proper form even when there is no coach in sight.
"I wanted players to be able to train at home without going back and reverting to their bad habits,'' said Craig, who amassed 1,391 career points while at Mitty. "I didn't want to have to re-teach them.
The Jumpshot Pro has reached the "patent pending" stage with a crowd-funding effort set to begin this week. If all goes well, the device will retail for $79.99.
Shooting accuracy was Rometra's hallmark at Mitty. She had a career field goal percentage of 56.3 percent and in 1999 averaged 23.7 points per game to be selected as USA Today's California player of the year.
Rometra now works as a personal trainer for young basketball players. She came up with the idea for Jumpshot Pro while heading home from a tournament in Los Angeles. She was squirming in her seat, fretting over Mitty junior Vanessa Garner whose shoulder injury would keep her away from getting schooled in the fundamentals, when she began sketching out her invention.
Essentially, the Jumpshot Pro serves as training wheels for the elbow. The spring-loaded sleeve won't allow the shooter's arm to fully extend unless the angle is fundamentally sound. Rometra hopes athletes can develop the muscle memory it takes to keep that form at game time.
"It takes the guesswork out of training," the Portola Valley resident said.
Rometra took the sketches she made in her window seat to mechanical engineer Mike Guglielmo, the CEO of Los Altos-based Apollo Information Systems.
Guglielmo, who had trained as a mechanical engineer, was happy to help: His daughter, Dani, had blossomed as a basketball player under Rometra's guidance.
Together, Rometra and Guglielmo came up with the lightweight sleeve that allows full range of motion for every basketball activy — dribbling, passing, playing defense — except for shooting. An off-angle shot locks up a cord attached to the player's waist, similar to the way the safety cord works on the treadmill at the gym.
Once they had a prototype, they had a handful of Rometra's players experiment with the device over 5 weeks. Bad shooters found it helped them be more accurate, she said, while good shooters found it to be a useful tool for snapping out of a slump.
As they refined the invention, Rometra also capitalized on some of her father's notable Silicon Valley connections. She got product advice from 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov, Apple executive Andy Miller and Acer America Corporations vice president Clarence Worthington.
The next step is a plea for funds on indiegogo.com. Once the pitch goes public on March 28, the company aims to raise $300,000 within 60 days.
Of course, even Rometra knows that her new high-tech device is no replacement for that old-fashioned lesson she learned as a kid using willpower to slog up The Hill. She credits both of her parents, Roger and Vernessia, for "instilling in me that I can accomplish anything I set me mind to doing, as long as I am passionate and have a strong work ethic."
That's why she was floored by a recent letter from Dani Guglielmo, her former player, who thanked her for a long-ago baptism of sweat by writing: Coach Ro's practices challenged me, inspired me, exhausted me, and made me a better player. The way she talked to me always made me strive to be the best.
To Rometra, it was the highest form of flattery.
"Part of being mentally prepared is training properly and knowing that you did everything in your power to prepare,'' she said. "Every time you step on the court you should have the mental attitude that you want to destroy your opponent"