A Drill That Will Help Young Athletes Learn to Run Away From A Hurdle
Novice hurdlers must be taught to hit the ground running – to clear the barriers without slowing or hesitating.
Too many kids leap, land, stop, prop, regain balance and then run. It’s due to a lack of both skill and confidence.
To solve this problem I very early on introduce to young athletes the concept of them running away from the hurdle as soon as they contact the ground after clearing the barrier.
Hurdle Walk-Overs (And What Can Go Wrong)
Kids often first learn the complex lead and trail leg hurdle action at a slow walking pace. It makes sense. It allows them to more easily process the movement requirements.
A common introductory drill is stepping over a hurdle set at a low height.
But there is a common problem that you will encounter here.
Kids often step over the hurdle with their lead leg, then put the foot of their trail leg down next to the lead leg foot, before walking away from the hurdle. In other words they end up standing with their feet side-by-side on the other side of the hurdle before walking away. This is NOT what we want them to do. The trail leg foot should NEVER land next to the foot of the lead leg. Good hurdling requires a continuous, flowing, uninterrupted run over and between the barriers. Not a stop/start action, which landing with the feet together following a clearance can cause.
The Hurdle Dot Drill
A really effective way to embed the required pattern early is to mark the ground where you want the athlete’s feet to land. In other words, you provide a visual cue and constrain the movement.
I use ground dots to guide their feet to where I want them, but tape or chalk would have the same effect.
The first dot is placed just on the other side of the hurdle. The second dot is placed ahead of this first dot, to encourage the athlete to actually take a stride beyond the first dot.
More dots can be added to encourage more strides. I have recently begun adding another dot on the near side of the hurdle for the athletes to start their foot on.
As a further cue, I will tell the kids that RED means RIGHT foot. Therefore, in the instance shown in the image above, the kids were leading with their left leg and trailing with their right.
How To Add A Game Element
To add a fun game element, I will create a story around the drill, telling the kids that the dots are stepping stones and the hurdle is a barrier that need to be negotiated over a sea of lava.
Always ensure that the dots will not slip when stepped upon.
I don’t use the dots when the kids run over the hurdles, being cautious of them slipping or the dots shifting.
Follow Up Task
If you coach hurdles to beginners, try this out and see how it goes. I would love to hear if it works for you. If you don’t coach hurdles, the same concept – making targets for a young athlete’s feet – could be used when coaching other track and field events and even other sports. Let me know what you come up with!
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 Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Anchor or via email.