More Fun And Better Jumping For Young Athletes
Jeremy Frisch is a coach whose Twitter account I rate as one of the best.
Recently he tweeted this brilliantly succinct observation about the best learning environment for kids:
I have recently seen lots of evidence of this while teaching youngsters to long jump.
Exploration > Explanation
Once the kids have been taught to take-off from one foot and land on two feet (which I believe needs a degree of explanation) I have found that further improvement comes from an “exploration” approach. Too much explanation/instruction (e.g. arms up, knee up, etc) leaves a confused and hesitant young athlete. On the other hand, the coach lying a “snake” (elastic high jump bar) across the landing pit and challenging the kids to jump over the snake without waking it (with no other additional cues besides a reminder about a two-foot landing) results in some pretty decent jumps.
I put it down to the simple external cue being used and the kids self-organising around it. It allows the kids to return to the intent of the long jump i.e. to jump long, rather than be preoccupied with the intricacies of how they are doing it.
Forget trying to teach perfect technique. A simple external cue woven into an engaging story or fun challenge is the go. In my recent experience, “Jump over the sleeping snake” (high jump elastic bar) will always outperform instructions like: “Head up”, “tall take-off”, “drive the knee and arms . . .”
I’m becoming more convinced that the best way to get kids to jump further in the long jump is to provide targets for them to jump over.
A Long Jump Alternative
I’ve extrapolated this thought to encompass how we conduct long jump competitions for kids. It is currently largely based on the adult model. Jump, measure, jump, measure, jump, measure . . .
Based on my theory of targets in the sand, what if we conducted kids’ long jump competitions as per a high jump competition?
In other words:
- Mark a “starting distance” in the sand (with a “sleeping snake”!) that is appropriate for the age group and achievable for most.
- The kids get up to 3 attempts to clear the snake.
- Kids who jump past the snake remain in the challenge and progress to the next challenge
- Kids who do not jump over the snake “leave” the competition to be kept active by taking part in some long jump development activities. (Or they can keep jumping) but no sitting out, please!
- The snake is shifted another 5-10cm further out into the pit for the kids who remain in the challenge.
- The competition progresses.
I’m confident that kids will jump better and have more fun using this method.
Does this sound fun and interesting? I think so and I’m willing to try it. Are you?
Over To You!
To me, it sounds like it would work, but have I missed something? Let me know what you think. Have you tried something similar?
I’m going to give this a go as soon as I can. Will you join me? Get in touch if you want to help me to trial this idea or have any questions.
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How To Teach Young Athletes To Long Jump (plus bonus cheat sheet)
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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.
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