How to Help Young Sprinters Get a Better Race Start

A Tip For Better Sprint Start Acceleration

Which foot should an athlete use to push off with at the start of a race? The front foot or the back foot?

Did you answer “the front foot”? Many people do.

But this is essentially a trick question because the answer is both feet.

Whether they are using a standing sprint start or starting blocks, when the gun is fired the athlete should push down and back with both feet.

Why The Back Foot is Important

The role of the back foot is often underestimated. Most athletes push with their front foot, but many just lift their back foot away from the ground or the back block.

The back foot is just as important, if not more so, than the front foot.

The back foot works with the front foot to help the hips to move forward at the start.

Common Faults

A lot of kids don’t effectively use the back foot as they push away from the start line.

When doing a standing sprint start, many will simply lift their back foot away from the ground rather than powerfully project themselves away from the line.

When using starting blocks, lots of kids just “step” out of the blocks rather than launch themselves forward.

The aim is to push, not pull the feet off the ground.

How to Teach a Back Foot Push

Once when coaching standing sprint starts to some 9 and 10 year-olds, I discovered an effective cue that helped the kids focus on their back foot push off.

I used ground dots.

Ground Dots

I had each of the kids place a ground dot under their back foot as they stood in a standing start position.

And I told them to push off the dot.

It worked a treat.

As the session progressed I experimented with expanding the cue into an analogy. I told the kids that the dot was a big magic button and that the harder they pushed down on it with their foot, the harder it would push back.

Ideas For Action

Try using ground dots ground dots – or similar – to provide a focus on the back foot action. Experiment with a variety of cues to see which works best. I would love to hear what you come up with. Let me know by leaving a comment/reply or by using the below contact details.

Further reading

E- Book:

A Fun Sprints Lesson Plan For Kids E-Book (plus bonus cheat sheet) 


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

15 Simple Tips You Need to Know for a Standing Sprint Start

10 of the Biggest Mistakes Young Athletes Make When Using a Sprint Standing Start

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 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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