An Activity That Will Prompt Young Athletes to Hold Their Feet Up Prior To Landing
The next time that you are coaching young athletes to long jump, ask the kids to build a “sand wall” across the landing pit.
The wall, which only needs to be a few centimetres high, will act as an obstacle over which the kids will try to leap.
It should be situated at a distance from the take-off area that challenges the kids but is not completely out of their reach. After explaining these parameters to them, let the kids decide where to put the wall. They will soon discover if it is too easy or too hard.
I have found that the sand wall, when placed at a challenging distance, is one of the best ways to encourage young athletes to hold their feet up and away from the sand prior to landing. This allows them to more fully complete their jump. Kids typically drop their feet into the sand too early. This cuts short their flight path and therefore the distance jumped.
You can have great fun with this activity. Ask the kids to name the wall. (The “Wall of Death” is common). Develop a story around the challenge. Are the kids on a mission? Are they super heroes?
Behind all of the fun is an important coaching strategy: finding activities that simplify the learning process and naturally prompt elements of a skill without the need for intense instruction or verbal cues. In other words, rather than telling the athlete to lift their knees, extend their legs, hold their toes up and hit the sand heels first . . . tell them to “jump over the wall”. It is easier and, I believe, more effective.
I would love to hear from you!
Have you tried this activity or something similar? How do you encourage kids to keep their feet up and not drop them too early? Do you know of any other teaching activities that reduce the need for verbal instruction? Let me know by leaving a comment/reply or by using the contact details below.
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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.