ASK AN EXPERT: How does one go about determining starting marks in horizontal jumps.

Kevin Christian Long Jump, Triple Jump 3 Comments

I may be in a position where my program will need me to coach the long and triple jump this year. I have found extensive resources on technique, drill, and training but very little on some basic nuts and bolts. One in particular as someone who never jumped nor coached jumping is how to determine where to start. How many steps should an athlete take in their approach? Are there models for progression? Differences between male and female? Once that is determined what is the best way to figure out that exact starting spot? Those are some of the questions I have about coaching the horizontal jumps.

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Comments 3

  1. We base our starting positions on the top end speed of the athletes. Slower kids have shorter approaches. Indoors we start at 50ft and work our way back. Outdoors we are at 75ft. Everything is done by trial and practice. Approach work is done every week 3 approaches. These are girls marks. Guys would probably add 10-15 ft indoor and outdoor to establish marks.

  2. In the LJ, the approach should start with the jumping foot forward and have an even number of steps. The VERY BEST high school jumpers have approaches of 16 or 18 steps. This allows for controlled acceleration to near top speed. I would have less accomplished athletes utilize shorter approaches–usually 12-16 steps. The shorter the approach, the less margin for error–but also, the less speed at the board. The problem is that the distance of say 14 steps will probably be very different for a freshman girl vs. a varsity boy.

    To determine the exact length of the approach, get away from the runway and onto the track. From an arbitrary “mark,” have the athlete run down a lane with controlled acceleration while while you count the number of times the JUMPING foot contacts the ground (remember, the jumping foot is forward, so it takes the 2nd step). Make a mark on the track at jumping foot step 6 or 7 or 8 or 9, depending on the number of steps most suited to the individual athlete’s approach. Do this several times. These marks should be fairly close together and thus allow for determination of an average mark. Then measure the distance between the starting mark and here and–voila!–you have a distance you can measure back from the board on the runway. This will provide a solid “mark for your athlete that can be tweaked as necessary.

    If consistency is a problem on the run-throughs, and the end marks are significantly far apart, stress to the athlete that most variation in the approach comes from an inconsistent first few steps. The first step MUST ALWAYS BE THE SAME. To achieve this consistency, I would give my athletes a check mark on the runway to hit on step 4 (step 2 of the jumping foot) of the approach.

    It is also important to remember that the longest approaches aren’t necessarily the best. I’ve coached 2 girls well over 19′ and 2 boys over 24′ that jumped better with 16 steps than with 18. Hope this helps.

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