“At what age should a young athlete begin to learn the crouch start?”
I am asked this all of the time. My answer is: “When they will actually benefit from it”.
They will benefit from a crouch start if:
- They have learnt basic acceleration skills.
- They can perform a good standing sprint start.
If they don’t know the basics of acceleration and/or cannot demonstrate a good standing sprint start, they are not ready to seriously be taught how to crouch.
To be of any benefit, a crouch start needs to be performed well. Performed poorly, it will slow the athlete down.
It is common for people to think that a young athlete will get a better start simply by using a crouch start. You only have to see some kids’ interpretations of how a crouch start should look to know that this is untrue.
They will only get a better start if they know how to do a crouch start and can cope with the demands of the skill. Many kids are actually better off using a standing start.
Despite this, at a coaching clinic I will sometimes teach kids – from about nine years of age – the basics of a crouch start. My reasoning is that it is a bit of fun. It is also something novel for the kids to try. I know that most of the kids will not be up to performing the skill well, but I also know they love trying and will feel a bit special learning an “advanced” technique. Will most do it well enough that it will benefit them? No. Will prematurely learning a few crouch start pointers harm them? No.
But if I am to seriously try to teach a child to crouch start, with the aim of transitioning them to use this skill regularly in competition, the athlete must achieve the following pre-requisites:
- The competent demonstration of wall drills.
- The ability to perform a good leaning start.
- The ability to accelerate well out of a standing sprint start position.
- The necessary strength to hold the basic crouch starting positions.
If they achieve “pass” marks in all of the above competencies, then I believe that the athlete, regardless of their age, can begin the process of properly learning to crouch start. If any of the above areas cannot be achieved then I will work to remedy this prior to progressing any further.
Let me know what you think!
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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.
I have actually used a crouch start for many of my young hurdlers. The main reason for this was to stop the “wheel stand or shuffling of feet” as the gun goes off. Obviously these kids were trying to get to the hurdle on a preferred leg and the crouch achieved this very successfully (and from u9s I believe!).
It was actually quite funny to see the kids in adjacent lanes all of a sudden deciding that “they had to also do a crouch start” as they were missing out on this …. although I think none of them had ever done a crouch in their life 🙂
An interesting one and I believe it really comes down to looking at the individual. I train an inexperienced but naturally gifted 13 year old that was actually far better off doing a crouch start instead of a standing start. This was due to him being strong but not having the adequate coordination to do a good standing start.