A Trail Leg Cue to Use When Coaching Young Athletes
Many coaches would know how difficult it can be to teach young athletes a good hurdles trail leg action. One feature of a good trail leg action is that the knee should be brought right around to the front – with the thigh held high and parallel to the ground – before the foot is planted back onto the track. Lots of young athletes tend to use a low knee action as they tuck their leg up, sometimes even pointing their knee towards the ground. It is also common for young athletes to rush their trailing foot back onto the track before their knee is pointing forward. This “chopping” or “kicking” down of the foot can lead to a loss of balance when running off and away from the hurdle.
To assist with the achievement of a fully-completed trail leg action, where the knee is brought right around to the front, ask the athletes to “pop a balloon” with their trailing foot.
Tell the athletes to imagine that there is a “big red balloon” on the track just beyond the hurdle where you want their trailing foot to land. In order to pop the balloon, they need to bring their trailing foot over the hurdle, around to the front and above the balloon, before bringing their foot down directly on top of the balloon to pop it. Tell the athletes that if the foot is brought down without bringing the knee fully around to the front (and the foot over the top of the balloon) they risk merely kicking the balloon away or even missing it completely. This can be practiced during drills, then transferred to the full hurdling movement.
You may need to curb the tendency of some athletes to inevitably want to “stamp” on the balloon and bring the trailing foot down too hard, but once learnt, the simple command of “balloon”, even when used during a full hurdling action, can be an excellent cue.
What is are your favourite coaching cues?
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Darren Wensor is a sports development professional, coach educator, specialist coach of young athletes and founder of the blog coachingyoungathletes.com. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Anchor or via email.