Track & Field: Use a Repetitive Cue for Sprint Starts and Jumps Runups

Track & Field: Use a Repetitive Cue for Sprint Starts and Jumps Runups

Dick Moss, Editor, PE

Here's a potential correction for sprinters who explode out of the blocks on their first step, but  falter on the next two or three strides.

It's common for sprinters in the set position to focus on their first movement out of the blocks - for example, a driving action with elbow and leg. They will often think of a single cue word with which to react in response to the gun, such as “blast,” or “boom.”

This mental focus is effective and usually does result in a quicker, more explosive reaction from the blocks.    However, this focus on a single movement and cue word can present a problem—it relates to only that single movement. As a result, the benefit ends as soon as the first stride is taken. Without a follow-up cue, there is often a slight hesitation before the second stride because the brain has to decide what to do next.

Use a Repetitive Instead of a Single Cue
One way to prevent this hesitation is to focus on a repetitive cue word instead of a cue that is used just once. For example, “boom-boom-boom-boom-boom” instead of just “boom.”

This still conveys the feeling of explosiveness that's needed, but it also provides a quick, continuous cue to which your sprinters can pattern their movements without having to think about what comes next.

Use to Produce the Desired Rhythm
You can also use the repetitive cues to produce the desired rhythm for sprint starts. For example, the stride rate is very quick as sprinters leave the blocks, but the time between foot contacts becomes farther apart as they progress down the track and the strides lengthen. You can produce the desired rhythm by extending the length of each subsequent cue word. For example, “boom-boom-booom-boooom-booooom!”

Application for Jumpers
The same strategy can be used to improve consistency in jumping events that require a precise runup, including the long jump, triple jump, high jump and pole vault. Many jumpers have difficulty in hitting the takeoff mark consistently because their stride rate and length varies between jumps.

However, you can use a repetitive cue to control both stride rate and stride length. How? By mentally repeating the cue word at the desired rate on every jump. Your jumpers' stride length and rhythm will grow more consistent as they become
synchronized to the cadence of these mental cues.

Dick Moss, Editor, PE,  2010.
From a conversation with Dr. Wendy Jerome, a former professor of sport psychology at Laurentian University and former national coach with the Canadian track and field team.

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© 2010, Physical Education,

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