Track & Field: Coaching your jumpers
9 competitive tips to keep your athletes fully prepared
The long and triple jumps can be incredibly difficult to prepare for, especially for athletes who may not be accustomed to the event. Because it’s so different from other track and field competitions, athletes require keen concentration to pull off the perfect jump, and that’s not as simple as it sounds.
Rob Graf, assistant boys track and field coach at Wheaton North High School (Illinois), leads the varsity team jumpers. The Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Association’s 2010 North Division Assistant Coach of the Year had these tips to help coaches get their athletes prepared for their next meet.
1. Warm-up early.Waiting too long to warm-up can be detrimental to performance, so Graf recommends athletes begin their routines one hour in advance, allowing for three or four approach run throughs without sweats and with spikes. That way, athletes can iron out any kinks in their approach well before it’s time to compete. If the warm-ups are executed to perfection, that can only boost your athlete’s confidence.
Graf cautions those jumping in a lower flight to always complete a full warm-up. Athletes need to remain loose until it’s their time to compete, and if they don’t set aside enough time for preparation, they won’t be able to reinforce and adjust their approaches.
2. Stay warm.
Warming-up early is key, but athletes must stay warm and loose until it’s their time to jump. Graf instructs athletes to put their sweats back on after warm-ups, which diminishes the risk of pulling a muscle during a full jump. He recommends keeping the sweats on until it’s time to jump and quickly putting them back on when finished.
3. Be ready when called.
If the mental and physical preparation has been completed in time, athletes should be ready to jump as soon as they’re called. Graf said it’s important to never hold up the competition, and that means having completed your routines.
4. Exercise mental control.
Graf points out that runners must get themselves prepared for a single effort, whereas long and triple jumpers may need to sprint down the runway anywhere from three to six times. That means athletes must be organized and composed enough to give just as much effort on jump six as they did on jump one.
Graf said most jumpers learn mental control through experience, but for younger competitors with little meet experience a coach should devote practice time to model what this feels and looks like through short-approach “mini-meets.”
5. Self analysis.
After the meet, take time to reflect back on your performance and analyze each jump. Athletes must be able learn from the experience and determine ways they can improve and modify their approach. Coaches should have their jumpers determine what went right and wrong in their performances and present them with the results. It will help player and coach discuss how improvements can be made.
6. Give greatest effort early.
As Graf points out, athletes should be prepared to give their best effort early in the competition because that’s when they’re the strongest. Not being able to produce a quality jump on the first try could be very demoralizing for competitors and lead to poor effort on ensuing jumps. It could also have an effect on the rest of the field.
Graf uses the example of Bob Beamon’s first jump at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Beamon set a new world long jump record of 29 feet, 2 ½ inches, essentially crippling his competition’s chances of taking home gold — and they knew it. Your athletes have a great opportunity to send a message right from the start, and they should do everything in their power to take advantage of it.
7. Take all the jumps.
As the season progresses, Graf said it’s wise that athletes take all of their jumps because they never know when that fifth or sixth jump could be needed for victory.
American long jumper Mike Powell best Carl Lewis at the 1991 World Championships, setting a new world record of 29 feet, 4 ½ inches on his fifth jump. Graf said if athletes are not taking all their jumps, they may not be prepared for the moment they really need it.
8. Jump against the tape measure.
All your athletes can control is their own performances, so remind them they’re jumping against themselves and the tape measure. They must shut out everyone and everything from their minds and focus on executing a perfect jump.
Don’t let your athletes get caught up in verbal sparring or mind games with their opponents — let the jumps do the talking. When all is said and done, win or lose, thank the judges and other competitors. Sportsmanship is always important.
9. Wear proper equipment.
Graf recommends that coaches get their athletes prepared for anything that may come their way. That means carrying an extra pair of spikes in case it rains, or bringing along another pair of socks for comfort when sand gets into their shoes. Also be prepared with backup shoelaces, a spike wrench, a rain suit and a water bottle. Oftentimes it’s difficult to gauge what kind of conditions you may face, so make sure all of your bases are covered.