“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!
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.