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.
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.
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
While recently 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.
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.
I am still experimenting with the most effective verbal cue. Since the session, I have wondered whether relating the dot to a small trampoline or spring might also work.
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.
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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, Anchor or via email.