The Best Place To Start With Young Hurdlers
Hurdling is a running, not a jumping event.
It is a sprint event in which obstacles happen to be in the way.
Athletes shouldn’t be taught to “jump” over hurdles; they should be taught to “step” over them.
The best way to do this is by teaching kids to “run” over low objects.
Where To Start With Young Hurdlers
One of the key principles of hurdling is the ability to run and confidently clear obstacles without hesitation and at speed.
This is virtually impossible to teach beginners when using competition hurdles set at their regular height. They are intimidating to many kids, causing them to slow, stutter and leap.
Running over mini hurdles is a great way to get young athletes started with the hurdles.
I use adjustable mini hurdles that can be set at a very low height and then raised as the athletes improve.
I choose running over mini hurdles as my introductory activity because:
- Mini hurdles are far less intimidating to beginners than the regular hurdles used in competition.
- The kids run more aggressively at, over and between the hurdles, which gives them the feel for fast hurdling.
- The mini hurdles encourage a fast stepping action over the hurdles, which is a desirable hurdling skill.
- The low height of the mini hurdle encourages a straight up-and-down lead leg action. Higher obstacles can lead to the kids “flicking” their foot and lower leg out to the side.
- It teaches athletes to switch lead legs without hesitation, thus developing both sides of the body.
- Mark a start line and finish line with cones, creating a distance of about twenty metres.
- Place five or so mini hurdles (other low objects can be used) at random distances in this space, some closer together and some further apart.
- With a group, you can set up several lanes of hurdles with each lane featuring hurdles placed in a different pattern. The athletes rotate from lane to lane having to negotiate a different challenge each time. I even allow the athletes to place the hurdles out for me, inventing a new pattern each time.
The athletes run fast from the start line, over the obstacles, and past the finish line.
Teach the kids to:
1. Run Fast
Run fast with a smooth action. Avoid ‘slowing down’ or hesitating before or after the hurdles.
2. Keep Moving
Clear the hurdles with an uninterrupted running action.
3. Step, Not Jump
No ‘jumping’ the hurdles. “Step” over the hurdles. Good hurdlers get back down on the ground quickly so that they can keep running fast.
4. Straight Up & Down
A basic ‘straight up and down’ lead leg action, with the lead knee pointed to the front. (There is no need to use a proper trail leg action – the hurdles are low enough not to require it.)
5. Over, Not Around
Step over the hurdle, not around it.
6. Break The Tape
Run fast until well past the finish line.
When you introduce hurdles to complete beginners, I suggest beginning by using very low obstacles.
Running over low obstacles at random distances can be used to:
- Give kids confidence in running and stepping over objects at speed.
- Develop a straight-ahead lead leg action.
- Teach kids to step quickly over the hurdles.
- Help kids learn to lead with either leg.
- Running fast.
- Getting back on the ground quickly.
- Leading with whichever leg gets to the hurdle first.
Would you use this activity as your hurdles starting point?
What are your thoughts on this as a hurdles starting point? Let me know by leaving a comment/reply or by using the contact details below.
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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.