Problems And Solutions For Young Triple Jumpers
Below are 10 of the most common skill and performance errors that I see kids make when they are triple jumping. I’d love for you to continue the list in the comments section of this post.
1. An Uncertain, Irregular Or Stuttering Run Up
The speed, accuracy and consistency of a triple jump run-up contributes to the success of the whole jump. While I don’t think it is necessary to dwell on the run-up or expect perfection from kids, young athletes often display some fundamental errors that can be easily attended to.
The main run-up issues include:
- An inconsistent starting point
- A run up that is too long
- Slowing down as approaching the take-off
- Uncertain, tense or anxious young athletes!
To deal with these, I suggest:
- Run up measurement, teaching and rehearsal
- Initially increasing the size of the take-off area
- Initially decreasing the emphasis on “hitting the board” – close enough is good enough
- Being less focused and fanatical on fouls that are caused by overstepping the take-off area.
2. Taking Off From A Board Too Close To The Sand Pit
Not “making” the pit and landing on the runway is a young triple jumper’s biggest fear.
It often causes kids to choose a take-off point/board that is too close to the landing pit. This will cause an athlete to have to “jam up” their movements in order to complete the hop and step on the runway. This obviously has a negative effect on the overall distance that the athlete can achieve.
The solution is to help the athlete to safely transition to a take-off board further away from the landing pit. This will allow the young athlete to more fully extend their movements.
3. A Huge Hop
Kids often perform a hop that has too much height and distance. This causes them to land heavily and collapse. They struggle to recover from this position and have no momentum to launch into the step and jump.
Too high a hop can be caused by the athlete leaning back at take-off and projecting too much force upwards rather than forwards. Most commonly a hop that is too big is a result of the athlete overemphasising the hop and forgetting that two more jumps must follow.
The key to overcoming this is to practice hops, steps and the full triple jump action at a sub-maximal effort with the distances well-defined by markers.
To read more about this, go to: How to Teach Even Phases in the Triple Jump
4. A Straight Leg Hop
This occurs when the athlete allows the hopping take-off leg to hang or drag during the hop. The hopping leg is relaxed instead of bringing it forward and upward so that it is ready for the step.
Movements emphasising upward drive with the thigh of jumping leg will help here. Introducing constraints in the way of challenges can include:
- Hopping up onto a step or low platform*
- Hopping over low objects such as mini hurdles*
*Try to include such activities in a game or fun circuit rather than as a repetitive drill.
External cues such as: “Punch your knee towards the sky” may also help.
5. A Very Short Step
As discussed above, many kids get too much height and distance in the hop, leading to the hopping leg collapsing on landing. The athlete is then unable to drive forward into the step. The step, which should be more of a “bound”, actually becomes an attempt to recover and re-balance as the athlete struggles to prepare for the jump take-off.
The key is to teach kids to use a more even hop:step:jump ratio. This often means teaching kids to lower the height of, and better control, their hop phase.
Sub-maximally hopping, stepping and performing the full triple jump action to predetermined markers is often the key here. Gradually move the markers further apart as the young athlete becomes more accustomed to controlling the hop and lengthening the step.
Coaching Young Athletes has developed a Triple Jump Phase Landings Quick Reference Guide to help coaches, teachers and parents determine the “ideal” length and landing points of the hop, step and jump phases to achieve a total target distance. For more information, click HERE.
I also suspect that the reluctance to “bound” could be result of an anxiety of landing heavily the non-preferred leg. Many athletes will hop with their “stronger” or preferred leg which means that they will land from step on the non-preferred or “weaker” side. The remedy to this could be some fundamental movement training such as balancing and hopping on the non-preferred side, combined with some age-appropriate strength training.
6. A Stiff-Legged Action
It is not uncommon to see young athletes perform the triple jump step phase with stiff legs. A stiff legged action means that the athlete will be using long swinging levers that slow the movement and will cause a braking effect on landing. It is very hard to drive the body forward on stiff legs!
This problem can be addressed by creating coaching cues, constructing constraints and choosing challenges that emphasise the forward and upward drive of the thigh of the athlete’s free leg during the step.
7. Toe Landings
Some young athletes will land on their toes at the end of the hop and the step. The landings should be flat-footed. The “pointed toes” problem can be caused by the athlete reaching out with the toes for distance
Toe landings may not only be painful, but they can also lead to unsteadiness and poor balance on landing, which is detrimental when trying to generate forward force. Also, if an athlete lands on pointed toes, the foot is already in a plantar-flexed position on contacting the ground, taking away its ability to drive the body into the next phase.
Athletes can instead be cued to reach out with the heel or push their toe to the top of their shoe in order to encourage flat-footed landings. Rehearsing sub-maximal bounds over low objects such as mini hurdles can also encourage athletes into a “toes up” position as the athlete avoids catching their driving foot under the hurdles.
8. A Haphazard Arm Action
Athletes should use a strong upward arm swing at the take-off of the hop, step and jump, but often it is uncoordinated, haphazard and ineffective.
This may be because the athlete is simply unsure about what to do or is not coordinated enough to perform it.
When coaching kids, I consider the triple jump arm action of secondary importance to the learning of the leg action. But when I do teach it I prefer the alternate arm action in preference to the double arm action as it is easier and more natural for young athletes to perform.
The arm action can be rehearsed standing, walking and during short-approach triple jumps, emphasising a strong upward swing .
9. One Take Off Rather Than Three Take-Offs
The triple jump can be thought of as three vigorous, driving take-offs. Many young athletes emphasise the hop take off but don’t work hard enough during the step and jump take offs. This causes the athlete to lose momentum as the jump progresses, negatively affecting the overall distance achieved.
To solve this issue, good horizontal speed needs to be emphasised throughout. Both the hop and step landings need to be active; meaning that the athlete works hard to react off the ground. I have found that the cue “bounce” has been effective on occasions to help young athletes understand what happens in the transition from hop to step, and step to jump. I have also had some success by asking kids to imagine that they are bouncing off mini trampolines or spring boards. Finally, I have also found that telling athletes to make each phase higher than the one before has has worked on occasions.
10. Uneven Rhythm
The three phases of a triple jump – the hop, the step and the jump – should be relatively even in distance and rhythm.
Kids rarely naturally achieve this. It is something that has to be coached.
A consistent rhythm means that each phase is being optimally used and combined into the best overall result. A rhythmic triple jump is more likely to result in the maintenance of horizontal speed and produce less braking forces.
A lack of rhythm can be caused by many of the errors outlined previously in this article. i.e. Too big a hop, a short step, etc.
The coach needs to search for the cause of the problem and experiment with cues, constraints and other interventions that may improve the problem.
The key problems for triple jumping kids are:
- An Uncertain, Irregular Or Stuttering Run Up
- Taking Off From A Board Too Close To The Sand Pit
- A Huge Hop
- A Straight Leg Hop
- A Very Short Step
- A Stiff-Legged Action
- Toe Landings
- A Haphazard Arm Action
- One Take-Off Rather Than 3 Take Offs
- Uneven Rhythm
“Fundamentals of Track and Field” by Gerry Carr
(To buy this book from the Amazon US store click HERE.)
3 Articles That Will Improve Your Triple Jump Coaching
Triple Jump Resources
Coaching Young Athletes Digital Resource:
Triple Jump Phase Landings Quick Reference Guide
Complete Jumps Training by Athletes Acceleration
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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.