Everyone wants their athlete to run fast! In order to help young athletes we have to talk to them in a way that they understand. Playing games is a great way to teach kids without them knowing!
One game that I really like is a simple balancing drill. Better yet, a “balancing game”…call it a game and it’ll go over better!
If you were to ask a kid to “dorsiflex” their foot, they might look at you like you’re crazy! If you play this sock balancing game and then ask the kid to hold their foot the same way they did when they were balancing the sock, it might go better!
The set up is really easy. All you need is something light, like a pair of socks, to balance. In order to balance the sock on the thigh or on the foot they have to be parallel with the ground. This will help when you start talking about how to hold the body in order to produce the most power when sprinting.
Have a look at this video to understand how to do the drill.
The Sock Balancing Sprinter Drill:
Once your athletes master this balance drill you can add on another “game”. This game helps to coordinate the sprinter form with the movement in order to create a fluid and powerful athlete!
The Single Leg Balance Sprint Drill (Game):
Begin in the “Balance Single Leg Sprinter Stance”.
The coach will call out a number between 1 and 3.
The athlete will respond by switching their raised leg the amount of times the coach calls out.
If a coach calls out “1”, the athlete will switch to the opposite leg and hold the leg high up in the air working on their balance.
If a coach calls out “2” the athlete will switch the raised leg 2 times, which will return them to the same leg raised as when they began.
Continue to call out random numbers until you detect fatigue and poor form from the athlete.
Cue the athlete to keep their ankle, knee and hip at 90 degree angles.
Cue the athlete to brace their core.
Allow you athletes to rest and repeat for a few rounds.
These 2 games can be added into any warm-up! If you want my simplified warm-up that can help develop speed and strength you can get it free here:
When working with young athletes one of the first things that we can teach them is how to get into an “athletic position”. Watch the following video to understand what that looks like…
If a young athlete can learn to put their body into the right position to be able to react quickly they’ll be one step ahead as they build their speed and strength.
One cool concept that is simple to understand is that “joint position dictates muscle function”. What this means is that when our joints are positioned in certain ways our muscles can either work better or worse.
The “athletic position” sets the joints in a great way in order to have the muscles ready to adapt when called upon.
Sport is more than just being fast and being strong. There are so many qualities that make a good athlete. Having your athletes able to react faster than their opponent will give them the advantage even if the opponent is faster and stronger!
Here is a fun drill that you can use in order to help your athlete understand being “ready” in an athletic position and how it will dictate whether or not they can respond fast enough to make a difference in their sport.
The star drill:
Create a box with 4 cones 5-10 yards apart.
This box can be used from the grid during the warm-up.
The athlete will stand in the middle of the box in a good athletic position.
The coach will call out different cones “top right”, “back left”, etc, for the athlete to explode towards and then return back to centre.
Perform this game for a designated amount of time and then rest or have the athlete perform an “active recovery” exercise.
Repeat this activity after adequate rest.
The better conditioned athletes won’t require as much rest, those looking to build their conditioning will require more rest.
This game can be progressed by calling out multiple cones for the athlete to move towards before returning to centre.
You can get creative in so many fun ways to help your athlete get set, get ready, and explode! Here’s a few other examples to have fun at your next session:
The hinge is a really important movement pattern to master in order to perform exercises properly and decrease the chance of injury. By mastering the hinge pattern an athlete can set themselves up for success in many exercises.
Movement quality should be considered more important than how much an athlete can lift.
Perfect the foundation and then load it up!
Always consult with your health care team before beginning any new fitness program.
Here’s a simple way to perfect the hinge pattern: grab a dowel, a broom or a hockey stick. Place the stick on your back holding the top with 1 hand and the bottom with the other. Make sure there is contact with the stick at the head and at the glutes (your bum).
Brace the core.
Bend the knees slightly, shift the glutes back as the hinge begins to separate the upper body from the lower body.
Picture the hinge of a door. The centre of the hinge doesn’t move. The door swings open while the door frame stays still. Your body can move similarly. Plant your feet into the ground, this is the solid frame, rotate at the hips, and hinge the upper body as still as the door. The upper body doesn’t round. Picture your upper body to be as solid as a door and the movement will get better!
Once this movement pattern is mastered more exercises can be practiced.The deadlift, the single leg deadlift, the hang clean, the bent over row and more exercises will be safer and more effective once this movement pattern looks good!
Grab your stick of choice and practice! Your strength coach will be so impressed when you show them how good this looks!