5 Ways To Help Young Athletes Run Faster When Long Jumping
If you want to jump your farthest. You have to realise that you’re not running on a runway. You’re racing down the track with sand you want to clear at the finish line.Carl Lewis (@carl_Lewis)
I love the way that Carl described this concept in a recent Twitter post.
It’s worth listening to a 9-time Olympic Gold medallist, particularly since four of those medals were in the long jump.
Young kids don’t automatically understand that speed on the runway is one of the biggest influencers of jumping distance. They are often too concerned with trying to remember the (too) many things we are asking of them.
The difference is amazing when kids “click” that it helps to run up fast when long jumping. But it takes teaching. Kids need to be taught to run up fast and limiting barriers need to be removed. Here are some thoughts about how to do this:
1. Restrict the Instructions
Let’s start by giving the kids fewer things to think about as they run in. Let’s keep long jumping simple.
If we are telling kids that their foot need to go here, their knee there, and their arms need to do this, they will have so many instructions going through their heads that they will need to slow things down in order to try to process them.
Maybe all we need to do is give them targets to jump to or over in the landing pit. It gives them the chance to self-organise, without their natural movements being interrupted by external chatter.
Try drawing lines in the sand or placing markers next to the pit for the kids to try to jump to, over or past.
2. Speed Over Accuracy
Ideally, we want kids to run in fast and accurately but initially, they struggle to do both.
For a long time, I’ve thought that we can get too focused on take-off accuracy at the expense of runway speed and aggression.
The board becomes the focus, rather than the jump. Long jump is not an accuracy contest. We need to remember that the front of the take-off board or area is really just the point at which the athlete must not step beyond at take-off. It is not a pre-requisite that the child hits the board/area for a big jump.
I suggest initially removing or softening the expectation of take-off accuracy. This can be done by entirely removing the need to take-off in a designated area or at least making it so easy to hit that the kids can’t miss it. A clearly marked area right up against the edge of the landing pit and big enough to ensure they can easily see and navigate to it can work well.
3. Teaching Not Tape Measure
Initially, ditch the tape measure in favour of just letting the kids jump. Along with traditional measurement comes a list of rules that initially will limit the learning of crucial long jump skills. Introducing a set of rules, while important in other arenas, is not necessarily the best way to go with a bunch of beginners. Long jump is fundamentally about running fast and jumping far. This can be clouded by a set of regulations that can confuse kids and distract them from the key task at hand.
If some type of “measurement” is “needed” why not put cones next to the landing area or draw lines in the sand that equate to a point score?
4. Runway Cues, Analogies and Scenarios
Be creative with prompting kids to run fast on the runway.
Cueing kids to use “fast arms” often results in faster legs, but there are far more fun and innovative images that we can implant in kids’ imaginations. This may take some experimenting with each particular person and group but may include mimicking a speedy animal or object that they relate to (cheetah or speed boat?) or a scene or scenario that motivates fast movement. Examples may include the kids pretending that they are an aircraft building up speed on a runway for take-off or they are being chased by a monster that can only be escaped by jumping far out into a “lake” (long jump pit).
Be aware that some ideas will work with some and not others. It is worth knowing that a certain cue or image can help one child and possibly hinder another. Be prepared to test and trial your ideas and use a variety of approaches.
5. Runway Games
Sometimes telling or cueing the kids to run fast is not enough. They need to learn the concept by experiencing it
Enter here games and fun challenges, which often hold that extra incentive to move quickly. Two ideas are:
1. Runway Races
If your venue has two long jump runways side-by-side, try some runway races during which kids race along the runway to be the first to step in their generously sized take-off area.
2. Timed Take-Offs
Try timing the first to last step of a young athlete’s long jump run-up, and challenge them to improve this time. You could even create a similar game where kids challenge each other over a certain number of strides on the long jump runway.
While neither of these games will closely replicate the way a long jump run-up is constructed, it is the concept of speed on the runway that is being highlighted, which will hopefully lead to faster long jump approaches.
In summary, the five suggestions to help kids run up faster in the long jump are:
- Restrict the Instructions
- Initially prioritise speed over accuracy
- Prioritise teaching over using the tape measure
- Be creative with runway cues, analogies, and scenarios
- Use runway games and challenges
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, Anchor or via email. Check out Coaching Young Athletes on YouTube.