Tag Archives: Children

How To Help Kids Develop A Better Leg Action For Sprinting

This Coaching Cue Will Lead To A Better Sprinting Technique

An effective running leg action includes:

  • A high knee, high stepping action.
  • Feet dorsi-flexed (pulled back towards the shins).
  • A “punch” of the foot back towards the ground.

It’s a list that when presented to kids can cause a lot of confusion and some fairly awkward-looking, overly self-conscious attempts at running fast.

Telling kids to do these things as they run is not wrong, but it is not the best way to achieve the desired action.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a single coaching cue that encouraged all of these things, without the need for a long and confusing list of instructions?

Try This Coaching Cue For A Better Sprinting Leg Action

Ask the kids to imagine that they are running through shallow water.

Here is a script:

“Hey, kids – who has ever run through shallow water – at the beach, in a swimming pool, or in a creek?

Yes? Well, what do you do?

Correct – we usually try to pick our feet and knees up. We want to step over the water rather than drag our feet through it, which will slow us down or even make us fall over.

So, I want you to imagine that the track is flooded with ankle-deep water and you have to try to step over the water as you are running.

Got it? OK, let’s go!”

“Like you are running through shallow water”

A Better Sprinting Action

Most kids try to sprint with a very limited leg cycle. They struggle to bring their foot through any higher than just above their ankle. The “run through shallow water” cue typically helps the kid to unearth an action that sees them carrying their recovering foot through a lot higher, more closely resembling the target sprint technique.

I believe the cue works because it is succinct and the kids can relate to it.

But don’t expect miracles. I am in no way suggesting that this cue will transform them into model sprinters. Some kids will misinterpret the cue and lift their feet too high, causing them to lean back.

It does, however, steepen the learning curve and provide – if not a shortcut – a better route to where we would like them to go.

Other Coaching Cue Ideas

I have heard other coaches use “running through tall grass” and “running through deep snow” for a similar effect. It is important to experiment to discover what most resonates with your audience.

Over To You!

Next time you are helping out a young sprinter, experiment with the “running through shallow water” coaching cue. I would love to hear how it goes. Let me know by leaving a reply/comment, or by using the contact details below.

Want More Ideas?

Get the A Fun Sprints Lesson Plan For Kids E-Book by Darren Wensor – Founder of Coaching Young Athletes


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.


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 TwitterFacebookLinkedin, or via email. Check out Coaching Young Athletes on YouTube, the Coaching Young Athletes podcast, and the Coaching Young Athletes E-Book Series.

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