14 Essential Tips For High Jump Coaches

A High Jump Coaching School Session With Matt Horsnell

Here is a video recording of a Little Athletics NSW Sunday Coaching School session that features Australian high jump coach Matt Horsnell. Matt is the coach of Nicola McDermott  who currently has a personal best performance of 1.96 metres.

Below the video you will find 14 key takeaways from the session.

Key Video Takeaways

1. Athletes need to enjoy the sport and the training that goes with it

  • The athlete has to be driving the process.
  • Get athletes to the point that competing almost becomes secondary to their love of the training environment.
  • Emphasise fun with kids. Their developing bodies are often unable to produce what a technical skill requires.

2. Start with scissors

  • Scissors jumping helps to prevent bad habits, such as leaning into the bar.
  • Scissors is a good alternative to the flop. Kids are not often strong enough in the core to hold flop clearance position over the bar.
  • Teach kids how to run properly over objects followed by a simple scissors bar clearance.
  • The scissors take-off foot strike should be under the hips so that it is not blocking* the movement; run off the take-off.

*Blocking is when the foot is planted out in front of the athlete’s hips, leading to a “blocking” effect on forward momentum. It can slow the athlete and lead to an increase in ground impact which may contribute to injuries. It can be identified by a foot strike that is low to ground. (The foot may even scrape on the ground as it is brought through). Correct this by picking up feet while running. Look for the foot being picked up behind hamstrings and brought under hips).

3. If you get right what happens on the ground, the stuff in the air comes automatically

  • Teach kids to run tall with their foot planting under their hips to prevent blocking.
  • The lean away from the bar is a crucial aspect in high jumping. An effective drill is to run with the free arm in the air and jump without putting the arm out over the bar during take-off.
  • Don’t concentrate too much on what happens over the bar/in the air. Doing so will  cause athletes to go straight into the landing after take-off.
  • Teach the kids to get up and hold the take-off. Use a drill where the athletes attempt to hit the flexible training bar with their knee.

4. Keep the run-up simple

  • An open j-curve-shaped run-up should be used rather than c-curve shape.
  • Keep the run-up measurement as simple as possible.
  • Using tape measures to mark out run-ups can create problems.

5. Make use of a flexible training bar

The use of a flexible jump training bar helps kids to work on technique and new things in training without fear of hitting the bar becoming a limiting factor.

6. You can train for high jump without landing mats

No mats? Ideas include:

  • Mark out a circle with cones. Run around the circle rehearsing the lean. Work both sides of the body by running in each direction.
  • Sand pit work – Run in off a curve, take off holding the knee drive, and land in a sandpit.

7. Be innovative with conditioning for kids

Ideas include:

  • Triggering the glutes with a tennis ball followed by foam rolling can be used to help manage soreness and prevent injuries.
  • Barefoot balancing on a medicine ball in sand pit in case of fall. Progress to squatting on the ball in the sandpit. The coach or a partner to assist with balance if required. A great activity to teach control of centre of gravity.
  • Chin-ups and swinging around on a chin-up bar, in preference to a lot of sit-ups or other exercises on the ground. Create an unstable environment.
  • Strength and conditioning activities in soft sand e.g. single leg hops and bounding for developing kids without the landing load. Great for teaching the kids to get the foot under hips; a blocking action will quickly result in the kids not going anywhere in the sand.

8. Discipline is indispensable

Successful athletes have an inbuilt discipline. They do things immediately don’t leave things standing, whether it be school work, assignments, or other tasks. Get things done so they can get back to training.

9. Distract with a diversion

Some athletes will be unsettled by watching and thinking about the opposition during a competition. If so, think of things to take an athlete’s mind off the competition. It may involve getting them to undertake a task when a competitor is jumping.

10. Tell athletes what to do; not what not to do

Don’t tell athletes what not to do; tell them what they HAVE to do; telling what doing wrong makes them focus on that. Tell them exactly what they need to do to improve.

11. Too many sports spoil the brew

Too many sporting commitments can be too much for kids. It doesn’t allow for proper recovery time between activities, which can lead to fatigue and injuries.

12. Athletes shouldn’t just jump all the time

Those athletes that just want to jump all the time won’t get better at jumping. They need to learn to enjoy the other associated “non-jumping” aspects of training.

13. Learn from others

Alongside participation in coaching courses, learn from mentors and fellow. Seek input from different people.

14. There’s no rush for a result

Don’t try to jump too quickly to the end result. Enjoy the process and the group you are working with. for example, you can get strong quickly but this might make you slow. A combination of strength and speed is needed to produce power, which is better gradually developed.

Further Information

Little Athletics NSW Sunday Coaching School Podcast


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.


20150614_154020-1Darren 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, Anchor or via email.

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