10 Things That Will Help You Coach Hurdling to Kids
To achieve the most common practice of taking eight strides to the first hurdle, the foot of the trail leg will need to begin forward/in the front block at the start line.
If a young athlete regularly stutters and hesitates to the first hurdle, try swapping their foot position at the start line. The change can make an immediate positive impact.
Terminology is important. Tell kids to “step” or “run” over hurdles, rather than “jump” or “leap” over them.
Ideally, when clearing a hurdle, a young athlete should take-off approximately 2/3 of the total flight distance before the hurdle and land approximately 1/3 of the total flight distance after the hurdle.
The lead leg should not be locked when over the hurdle. Relax it a little at the knee.
The lead arm should not cross the midline of the body.
The analogy of “dog and tree” to describe the trail leg action (i.e. the athlete is a dog and hurdle is a tree) is one of the best ways to get kids to remember this position (and get a laugh!)
Teach kids to only start to bring the trailing foot back down onto the track once the trailing knee is fully around and pointing to the front. Bringing the foot down earlier will cause a chopping, cross-body action that will put the young athlete off-balance on touch down.
Avoid insisting that beginners lead with the same leg the whole way. It may cause them to add extra strides between the hurdles to achieve this. Teach them to run without slowing and to lead with whichever leg presents itself as they approach the hurdle.
Move hurdles slightly closer together in practice to replicate race speed. Kids will rarely run at race speed in practice. Slightly less of a gap between the hurdles will reproduce the rhythm generated during a race.
Over To You!
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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, or via email. Check out Coaching Young Athletes on YouTube, the Coaching Young Athletes podcast, and the Coaching Young Athletes E-Book Series.