How do youth track and field coaches find and develop good long-jumpers? For a start, few teams will lack volunteers, as long jumping is a fun-looking sport to many young athletes. But not every eager volunteer will be suited to this event.
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- Take your volunteers onto the track, but away from the long jump area. Find a spot in a lane, have each would-be jumper put both feet on a line and lean forward until he/she begins to fall. The athlete will naturally extend one foot to prevent the fall. That’s the foot the athlete will stride with first during the long jump. The opposite foot is the one he/she will push off with at the takeoff board.
- Next, the coach walks down the track and has each athlete run, beginning with the foot they caught themselves with previously. Let’s say the first runner begins with his right foot. The coach then counts each stride of the runner’s left foot and marks the spot where the toe of the left foot lands for the eighth time.
- Go through the drill three times, marking their eighth stride each time with each runner’s initials. After the third drill, examine the marks. If one runner’s initials are all grouped closely together, say, within six inches, you may have yourself a real long jumper. More likely, the marks will be farther apart and the athletes will have to either learn to stride more consistently, or to find a different event. That’s because the key to long jumping is to hit the board in perfect stride, at full speed. That requires consistent striding, as well as an ability to make last-minute corrections for wind conditions.
- When an athlete can stride consistently, the coach measures the distance between his starting point and eighth-stride mark. In future meets, the jumper marks off this distance from the board to determine his/her starting point.