Athletics coaching is a tough call: we may have a dozen or so teenagers and young people all itching to run the track, and we have to produce useful sprint drills, organise some useful and productive challenges, and learn about our athletes’ abilitie
s and weaknesses. We can hope to see some flourish and progress onto competition and achievement, and others will fall by the wayside through lack of persistence or motivation. Realistically, some will fail due to our own failings as a coach.
Here is a list of expectations of an athlete at a UKA affiliated athletics club:
Eyes focused at the end of the lane – tunnel vision
Head in line with the spine – held high and square
Face relaxed – jelly jaw – no tension – mouth relaxed
Chin down, not out
Shoulders down (long neck) relaxed and square in the lane at all times
Back straight (not hunched)
Abdominals braced (not tummy pulled in)
Smooth forward backward action of the arms – not across the body – drive back with elbows – brush vest with elbows – hands move from shoulder height to hips for men and from bust height to hips for the ladies
Elbows held at 90 degrees at all times (angle between upper arm and lower arm)
Hands relaxed – fingers loosely curled – thumb uppermost
Hips remain stable during execution of drills”
This list seems to push out fun in favour of elbow angles. While I am looking for efficient movement patterns, I am also keen to introduce games and challenges that will keep the club members coming back every week. Hip stability can best be achieved through training, and building the movements the body is lacking, rather than encouraging a self consciousness over body movement. The best moves are achieved subconsciously.
I don’t like to see this level of prescription in training teenagers. Running should be largely instinctive in my view, and I’d rather assist correction via training in movement, when it is necessary. Running is a freedom, a joy, but when an athlete chooses to train to compete he will need some guidance. Guidance, a few coaching points where there is risk of serious underachievement, and a reinforcement of the athlete’s strengths. Not a long list of postural corrections he has to remember as he reaches the starting block.