As a coach, you are always trying to improve. The better you are as a coach, obviously the better you will be coaching your athletes. Thus, the better chance your athletes will have at achieving their athletic goals.

Now that track has ended for me and all of my athletes, it is time to scrutinize the coaching and what I need to do to improve for next year.

When I look back on the season, I think there were two big errors that I did in my training that will definitely be changed for next year. In the big scheme of things, this wasn’t as costly as it could have been for these track athletes since they aren’t even in high school yet so they have plenty of time to get better.

Mistake #1

The first mistake that I did during this track season was my step approach for the long jumpers. Usually what I do is have them run back down the track away from the board and when they feel they have hit full speed they are supposed to yell out and let me know.

We then mark the spot, have them run down the runway to make sure the steps are accurate, and then measure the distance so we got a starting point. A long jumpers start will vary at each meet due to the weather conditions (how hot/cold or how windy), but you need a consistent starting point before you can make adjustments at each meet.

The problem that I discovered was that some kids were starting way too far away and running forever before they hit the board. I think they were tiring themselves out. Others had a mark that was too short and I don’t think they were able to build up enough speed.

I decided to do a 12 step approach for each athlete.

This simplified everybody’s approach and once we got their distance marked for the 12 step approach, we went from there. I did this for each long jumper who was going to be competing in the relay meet and league meet at the end of the year.

Ultimately, I think I should have gone to 14 steps.

Some of those jumpers did well, but most didn’t jump their best jumps at a time when they should have been peaking for PR’s. For my summer long jumpers, I made that adjustment and 2 of the jumpers got PR’s and the third got second in her meet and only a few inches off a PR.

So, next year we will be doing a 14 step approach for the long jumpers.

Mistake #2

My second mistake involved how often I trained the athletes. At one of my conferences this year, a track coach who works with professional track stars stated this interesting fact when it comes to track.

“If a runner doesn’t do anything for 48 hours than his nervous system starts to decondition.”

What this means is if you do 5 days of practice, don’t give 2 days of rest. At the max would be one day of complete rest and then back at it. This guy works with pros so he doesn’t give many days off. He usually will have an active rest. Meaning, they will do something other than running, but keeping the nervous system wired yet not doing hard pounding running.

During the spring season, I had one of my athletes training Monday (accelerations, lifting, and plyos), Tuesday and Thursday (normal practice), Friday (accelerations, plyos, and some lifting), and Saturday either a meet or practice. Rest on Wednesday and Sunday.

That athlete was a double winner at the end of the season league meet. The nervous system was wired to perfection and ready to run fast.

Once the spring season ended, I gave her and all the athletes an entire week off. Once we started practice, it was two practices for two weeks. Nothing else. I completely de-wired these athletes. Instead of building on the success of the season, we basically reverted right back to beginning-of-the-season shape for summer.

Next year, once the league is done for the spring season, practice will begin 2 days later for the summer meets. The athletes won’t go 48 hours without doing something to stimulate the training and nervous system.

There might have been a few other items I could alter for next year, but those were the two biggest that come to mind. Changing those things around I think will really prepare our track athletes to get the best times of the season.

Photo courtesy of The Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/royalcanadianlegion/