Tips for Transitioning Kids to Fewer Strides Between The Hurdles
Most kids who are hurdling for the first time will try to lead with the same leg the whole way and will take a hesitant five (or more) strides between the hurdles.
If they can be taught to run fast and aggressively, and step over the the hurdles quickly without slowing or hesitating, a lot a kids will be capable of taking four strides between the hurdles, switching the lead leg at each barrier.
If a child is capable of consistently taking four strides between the hurdles but is slowing or chopping their strides to do so, then it may be signal that they need to move to a three-stride pattern between the hurdles.
This is the ultimate aim for kids in the straight hurdles – three strides between the hurdles and leading with the same leg the whole way.
The transition to taking less strides between the hurdles can be difficult. It can be a scary time for the athlete and the coach/parent, often generating some heart-stopping “are they going to make it?” moments.
The biggest problem to making the transition is the athlete’s fear of crashing into one of the barriers.
The key to overcoming this fear is to make the transition in small, manageable steps.
Ideally the process is done with plastic or other modified training hurdles to help with the athlete’s confidence and decrease the gravity of any mishap should they collide with a hurdle.
Making the Transition
Once I am convinced that a young athlete is ready to make the transition to less strides between the hurdles I use a combination of the following strategies:
1. Assess if they can achieve the target number of strides over mini hurdles
This simply involves placing mini hurdles at the correct hurdle distances and then seeing if the athlete can run and step over the hurdles with the target number of strides.
Theoretically, if they can achieve the target number of strides over mini hurdles, they have the speed and stride length to do the same over the regulation hurdle height.
2. Move the hurdles closer together
Work over two hurdles with the first hurdle at correct distance and the second hurdle slightly closer than regulation distance (e.g 1-3 foot lengths). When the athlete can confidently achieve the target number of strides at the modified distance, the hurdles can be moved progressively further out until they are at regulation distance. This can also be done with hurdles number three, four, etc.
Therefore a progression may look like:
- Second hurdle three foot lengths closer
- Second hurdle two foot lengths closer
- Second hurdle one foot length closer
- Second hurdle at regulation distance
3. Lower the height of the hurdles
Often in combination with the above, I will lower the height of the second hurdle one notch.
- Second hurdle three foot lengths closer and one notch lower.
- Second hurdle three foot lengths closer and at regulation height.
- Second hurdle two foot lengths closer and one notch lower.
- Second hurdle two foot lengths closer and at regulation height.
Not all athletes will need to pass through every one of the progressions listed above. Athletes may skip some of the steps if their confidence grows quickly. The observations of the coach and constant communication with the athlete will help determine the rate and manner in which the athlete progresses.
There are two other factors that will help a young athlete transition more easily to less strides between the hurdles:
1. Efficient clearance of the hurdles
For more information about this topic you might like to read How To Get Kids Lower Over The Hurdles.
2. The ability to run fast to the first hurdle without slowing or hesitating
For more information about this topic you might like to read How to Put Your Best Foot Forward in Hurdles.
Young athletes need to learn how to hurdle without hesitation. Part of this includes learning how to take less strides between the barriers. To achieve this:
- Check if they can achieve the target number of strides over mini hurdles.
- Move hurdles closer together, then work up to regulation distance.
- Lower hurdles slightly, then work up to regulation height.
All of the above will help the athlete gain confidence and work up to the target skill in incremental steps.
Do you have any tips for helping kids to take less strides between the hurdles?
Have you had to teach someone? Has your child done it? Have you done it? What worked and what didn’t? Let me know by leaving a reply/comment or by using the below contact details.
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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, or via email. Check out Coaching Young Athletes on YouTube, the Coaching Young Athletes podcast, and the Coaching Young Athletes E-Book Series.