Effective Coaching Cues and Analogies for Overcoming Common Problems in Kids’ Sprint Acceleration
An effective sprint acceleration away from the start line involves exploding forward with the eyes focused down, as if all power is being directed through the top of the head.
This can be difficult for kids to achieve. Two of the main problems they have are:
They can be slow to move off the line. Physically, they lack strength/power and many have delayed reaction times. A limiting mental factor is their lack of concentration. They also struggle to understand exactly what they need to do
They commonly look towards the finish line or pop up too quickly while trying to accelerate. This compromises the effectiveness of the movement.
Despite their physical limitations, we can start to teach kids the intent and shape of the movement.
But how to communicate this to them?
Analogies are arguably the strongest form of coaching cue.
The speed, direction, force, and shape of the initial sprint acceleration can be related to a jet taking off from an aircraft carrier – a fast, horizontal projection forward. (Tell the athletes that they need to take off like a jet, “not a helicopter”!).
Take-off like a jet from an aircraft carrier.
However, your first-choice coaching cue, will sometimes not work.
This is an exchange I once had with a child:
Me: “Take off the start line like a jet taking off from an aircraft carrier”.
Child: “What’s an aircraft carrier?”
No matter how much you like a coaching cue (I LOVE the aircraft carrier analogy), if it doesn’t resonate with the child, it is worthless in that situation. Rather than persist with something that is not getting through, don’t be afraid to create and invent. Sometimes it’s just about finding the right words.
Alternative Acceleration Analogies
Below are some alternative acceleration analogies to try with kids. Each analogy reflects the direction, force/speed, and/or shape of the target movement.
They focus on:
- Intent: Explode away from the line fast and project forwards
- Shape: Eyes down; a big range of movement
“Imagine you’re a rocket blasting off to the finish line.”
“Pretend you’re a superhero springing forward from a tall building, eyes looking down at the action below!”
“Be like a racehorse jumping out of the starting gate, explode forward with your eyes focused downward!”
“Pretend you’re a diver diving into a pool, leap forward with your eyes looking straight down at the water!”
5. Race Car
“Imagine you’re a race car revving up at the starting line. When the flag drops, step on the pedal and shoot out from the start!”
“Think of yourself as a jack-in-the-box. Spring out of the start!”
“Picture yourself as a coiled spring, ready to unleash your power in a big leap.”
8. Lightning Bolt
“Think of yourself as a lightning bolt shooting out of a storm cloud. Eyes down, channel all your energy to surge forward with lightning speed!”
“Visualize yourself as a powerful volcano erupting. Burst forward with explosive force!”
“Imagine you’re a cannonball being shot out of a cannon. Focus your eyes down and blast forward with power!”
“Imagine you’re a powerful arrow being shot from a bow.”
Concise Coaching Cues
Sometimes you need something short and sweet. Try these:
- “Eyes down, power up, go!”
- “Focus down, explode forward.”
- “Burst forward with all your power!
- “Eyes down, push off strong.”
- “Downward eyes, burst forward.”
- “Focus, power, take off.”
- “Eyes down, unleash speed.”
Effective sprint acceleration at the start line requires explosive power, precise body positioning, and focused intent. For kids, this can be challenging, but with the right coaching cues and analogies, they can learn to understand and execute the movement more effectively. Remember, not every coaching cue will work for every child, so be open to creating and inventing new ways to communicate the message.
A Fun Sprints Lesson Plan For Kids E-Book (plus bonus cheat sheet) by Coaching Young Athletes
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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.