The Common Triple Jump Terminology That Is Misleading
The triple jump is commonly described as a “hop, step, and jump” movement.
This terminology is inaccurate and misleading. If we accept that an effective coaching cue captures the speed and force of a movement, then “step” is a terrible description of the middle phase. The middle phase should not look or feel at all like a step. “Step” sounds like walking. This is way too passive. The middle phase needs to be a much more aggressive and exaggerated movement.
Alternatively, the triple jump is sometimes referred to as a hop-skip-jump. This is also unsatisfactory. The middle phase is not a skip as most would define it. Again, the terminology provides the wrong cue to produce the desired movement.
Better Triple Jump Terminology
What words work better?
Both “bound” and “leap” better describe what needs to happen during the middle phase.
Online definitions describe “bound” as a leaping movement. “Leap” is springing, or making a large jump. Perfect!
These words work as they capture the speed, shape, and force/strength demands of the movement.
The Weakest Link
Each of the triple jump phases should be relatively even in rhythm and distance. The middle phase is often a glaring weakness with young athletes, being the shortest phase by far. There are some possible reasons for this:
A Huge Hop
Good triple jumpers use a long, low hop to help set up the next phase.
Many inexperienced youngsters will come crashing down after a huge hop that is way too high. They then struggle to produce anything with their step.
Good triple jumpers aim to get a relatively even contribution from each phase. They work hard from the hop landing into the “step” phase.
Many kids use the “step” phase to regain their balance after a big hop. Rather than contributing to the performance, it becomes a “nothing” phase. It simply fills the gap between the hop and the jump.
Many kids are not confident leaping from their preferred to non-preferred foot. Because of this, they are timid and restrained with the effort they put into the middle phase.
The inaccurate terminology doesn’t help. Is it possible that many kids are stepping because that is what we tell them to do? Would describing the triple jump as a “hop, bound, jump” or a “hop, leap, jump” make a difference? It would be a start.
What we name a movement is more important than we realise. Some of our descriptions of movements could be sabotaging their performance. Let’s carefully choose the words we use. With the triple jump, “bound” or “leap” are much better options than “step” or “skip”.
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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.