A Crazy Way To Learn About Crouch Start Mistakes

What This Toy Figurine Can Help Us Learn About Crouch Start Errors

This may be first-ever article that has analysed the crouch start technique of a Smurf.

Look at the image below.

It perfectly displays three common errors that kids make when performing a crouch start for the first time. Can you pick them?

Smurf Blog

What did you come up with? Let’s see if we match.

Head Position


The Smurf is displaying a classic fault that is exhibited by many young athletes – a lifted head position. It is a common misconception that an athlete should “look towards the finish line” when starting a race. Not only is this position tense and uncomfortable, it places the athlete in a poor acceleration position and may cause them to stand up too quickly.

Smurf Error! Eyes looking to finish line. Blog graphic


The head should remain in a neutral position when in the set position, which will lead the eyes to be focused back behind the start line. This will help put the athlete in a more effective acceleration position in which the aim is to achieve a lean forward from ankles to ears.

Coaching Cues

I like to instruct young athletes to look at a piece of coloured tape that I have placed on the ground where I want their eyes to focus. It may also be useful to stick a piece of tape on an athlete’s front or back foot, and ask them to look at the tape when in the set position.

Hand Position


You will notice that the Smurf’s fingers are pointed forwards – another common problem with beginners. Holding the fingers in this way may make a young athlete push back and therefore sit back from the start line when in a set position. On the start signal it also necessitates that an extra effort be made to get the arms to drive forwards and backwards, rather than “paddle”.

Smurf Error! Fingers pointing forward, Blog Title

Smurf Error! Fingers pointing forward front, Blog Graphic


The fingers should be pointed laterally out to the sides with both thumbs pointed inwards. The index fingers and thumbs should be up close to (but not touching) the line.

Coaching Cues

I like to tell young athletes to make two “Sydney Harbour Bridges” just behind the line. This is a very “Australian” coaching cue, to which not all kids around the world may be able to relate; but hopefully you get the idea. If you are not in Australia, can you think of similar cue that would relate better to the kids in your local coaching environment?

Hand and Shoulder Vertical Alignment


The Smurf’s shoulders are vertically aligned behind the hands. This position will make it more difficult for a young athlete to project themselves forward on the starting gun signal. It may also lead them to rise too quickly which will cause them to prematurely lose an effective acceleration position.

Smurf Error! Shoulders behind hands


The shoulders need to be further forward, preferably over the hands, to allow the athlete to more easily displace their weight and project it forward rather than upwards.

Coaching Cues


  • “Shoulders over hands”
  • “Put weight on hands”
  • “Head past the start line”

Follow-Up Tasks

  1. The Smurf may be displaying other technical faults that I have not highlighted. Can you identify any? Let me know if you do!
  2. Watch a young novice athlete perform a crouch start. Are they making any of the above errors? If so, do any of the suggested corrections help? I would love to hear back from you.

You can contact me by leaving a reply/comment or by using the below contact details.

Further reading

Another 3 Athletics Myths You Should Know

When Should Kids Learn to Crouch Start?

5 Secrets to Success With Starting Blocks

How to Set Up Starting Blocks in 3 Simple Steps (Video)

How to Teach Kids to Lean When They Accelerate

If this post helped you please take a moment to help others by sharing it on social media. If you want to learn more I encourage you to leave questions and comments or contact me directly.

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 TwitterFacebookLinkedin, or via email. Check out Coaching Young Athletes on YouTube, the Coaching Young Athletes podcast, and the Coaching Young Athletes E-Book Series.

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