Spatial Awareness

THE WARM UPI’ve just read an article on the problems of the development of spatial awareness and how coaches use an assortment of  visual stimuli to help in this process. I’m sure as jumps coaches you have jumpers who find the board with amazing regularity and jumpers who are ‘serial foulers’….

But are those jumpers who rarely foul compromising their speed to the board in those vital last six strides to the board – and that’s the reason they don’t foul that much?

I work very hard with every horizontal jumper in my training group on the development of spatial awareness. The times I’ve stated that the runway approach is a complex, serial skill. It’s a component of the event that does require special attention.

Last week I handed over to the group the  total responsibility for their own approach run. It’s like a fingerprint – no other jumper has an approach run that is totally  identical to someone else’s. We’ve all done enough work on this aspect these past years and they all have a good understanding on the structure and dynamics of runway running…

Since I’ve done this,  I’ve noticed a real determination to succeed We start the runway approaches right away and I ask them to do a minimum of 10 approach runs each week. So by next March they will have completed at least 240. I told them in no uncertain terms that if the foul a lot next year then it’s not MY fault [tongue in cheek]….

BUT FIRST:  they have to find a tempo and  a runway  rhythm that suits them. Do they start slowly and progressively get quicker in order to find that absolute optimal speed to effect a good take-off; do they accelerate quickly then maintain that speed in the middle third and then accelerate to the board; or do they start fast and stay fast…there are so many ways of arriving at the board.

Have you ever thought that they might have the wrong tempo and rhythm. You have to play around with all manner of types of approach run. This might cure the problem of fouling straight away…!!

Randy Huntington [coach to Mike Powell] likens the approach run to a dance. Every stride is choreographed carefully….you must then PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE…

I’ve been using coloured cones, water bottles and whatever I fancy to help jumpers focus on running to the board for many a year. This ability to evaluate speed, time and space is vital in order to place that take-off foot accurately on the board.

I sometimes organize sessions where I place start markers down randomly at the side of the runway and they have to run to the board, adjust early and place the take-off foot on the board and jump….

They actually enjoy this type of technical session.

If you google ‘what is spatial awareness’ it throws up quite a mixed bag of definitions and explanations…

Spatial awareness is the ability to be aware of oneself in space. It is an organised knowledge of objects in relation to oneself in that given space. Spatial awareness also involves understanding the relationship of these objects when there is a change of position.

OR….

Generally speaking, spatial awareness is the recognition of the distance between objects.  More specifically, though, the term refers to a person’s ability to judge where they are in relation to the objects around them.

SPEAK WITH YOU SOON…

 

 

Our 1st Training Session Back..

What does the coach see?I’ve just had a months complete rest from coaching athletics. It’s the longest break I’ve ever taken but enjoyed every minute of it. Our 1st training session back was very enjoyable…

We met up on a very sunny morning at Roath Park in Cardiff and we adapted the natural environment for our training purposes. We ran slowly around the park to warm up…[approx 1 mile]..

Roath Park Lake

Roath Park Lake

This was followed by individual warm ups…

My Training Group 2014 -2015

Training Group 1After the warm up we did a hill session followed by inclined hill bounding. This session was just a pre-cursor for all the hard work to follow. It was intended as a bit of fun to get things going but I was very pleased with how they all worked.

Below is a short excerpt of what we did. A few posture and mechanical issues but that will be remedied as the training programme evolves…

Speak with you all soon..

Greg Rutherford’s winning leap of 8.29m..

What does the coach see?Let’s take a look at this short video of Greg Rutherford leaping out to 8.29m at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich.

The commentry is not in English but this doesn’t matter – the visual is self-explanatory..

 

What are we looking for?

We are looking for 3 things..

Take-of distance….
Flight distance….
Landing distance….

This jump was potentially an 8.50+ jump. We now know that the total distance jumped is the combination of the 3 distances above…

Lets see how Greg worked his way through each ‘phase’…..

Greg has very good runway speed, well balanced and attacks the board. I’d love to see the stats on his loss of speed over the last six strides. If any jumper can limit that loss to under 10% then they will jump well…

Jumpers need to find that optimal speed to be able to take-off effectively and dynamically  without being off-balance and un-coordinated.

No great SINK on that penultimate step. It’s my belief that ‘too much sink’ will result in loss of speed. This sink takes place naturally in preparation for take-off. I don’t coach it but do emphasise the fact that the last but one foot contact should be onto a flattened foot. This gives a sink of about 2-3cms…

Greg’s take-off distance could be lengthened. He was in to much of a hurry to reach the flight phase. If he had HELD a little longer in that split position from the board he would have found an extra 10-20cms…

His flight phase and preparation to land are superb. Notice how he locks the arms behind the head at the apex of the flight phase and KEEPS THEM THERE until required on the descent to the sand. His core strength keeps him upright for longer.

On the parabola to the sand he initiates a dynamic leg lift – but legs were slightly uneven. He brings the legs through quickly as short levers before driving his arms and chest down to his thighs [not unlike a piked-position]. He keeps his head up, never looking for the sand. On landing with his heels landing he ‘folds’ the legs thus bringing his backside through to fill the holke left by the heel cut.

NOTE: Younger jumpers need to practice this a lot. It can add over 30cms to a jump…

Speak with you all soon…

Rhythm Drills To Improve The Long Jump Run Up

NewsletterRhythm Drills to Improve the Long Jump Run Up….

The aim of the long jump approach is to establish maximum horizontal velocity without inhibiting the take-off.
In practice, the most decisive factor in determining the distance jumped is the SMOOTH linking of a fast approach run to a powerful and well coordinated take-off.
Ter-Ovanesyan [Russia] states that long jumpers must, right from the beginning, be made aware that ‘the approach does NOT FINISH at the board’.

  • The board is regarded only as a part of the total distance to be covered in a smooth relaxed acceleration with increasing concentration and an aggressive approach just before reaching it.
  • Long jumpers must in their training take into consideration the specific characteristics of the approach and not merely follow sprint training procedures.

Speed on the runway is vital and must depend on the jumper’s ability to accelerate to top speed. The approach requires precision in the stride pattern and a consistent rate of acceleration. The general construction of the approach run in the long jump has the coach and jumper developing the following important factors:
1. Length of approach
2. Rate of acceleration
3. Overall speed of the approach
4. Uniformity
5. Rhythm in the last strides
It is apparent that a lot of the jumper’s training MUST be done on the runway at speed. A jumper must establish the speed, control and accuracy for this most important phase.

These methods include: high knee lift runs, various forms of accelerations, downhill runs, technique runs over 30 to 40mts, varied pace runs, rhythm runs, sprint drills and starts.

According to Adams 1983: trends towards the training and development of event specifics for the long jump suggest that it can be divided into three parts:
1. Development of the ability to run ‘in balance’ and adjust to this balance [eg: technique runs, varied pace runs].
2. Development of consistency [stabilization of the approach eg: acceleration runs, rhythm runs, accuracy runs.
3. Development of basic speed. He comments that it is dangerous to assume than an improvement in sheer sprinting speed will lead automatically to improved distances. The jumper MUST learn to use the speed.

  • With all this emphasis on speed on the runway and the complexities of the approach, many problems can emerge. These have been well documented and include:

1. Approach too long or too short
2. Lack of proper rhythm…
3. Slowing down over the last strides…
4. Uncoordinated running, especially over the last strides…
5. Tension throughout the approach and over the last strides…
6. Inhibited by the board…
7. Blocking at the take-off…

Speak with you soon…

Height at Take-off…

NewsletterI’m often asked how you achieve height at take-off. I was asked this last week by Carl, a jumps coach from New Brunswick , Canada…

He asked..

Hi Nigel…What do you use or do to get more vertical height at the board? Most of my athletes are all triple jumpers, I’ve had them go slower and gradually build up speed (can’t seem to find the sweet spot). Used a 4″ box, we used a 4″ ramp and I’ve used flat pylons or small hurdles all with mixed results. They have plyo and strength incorporated into their workouts too. So I’m just curious if you have anything that works for you that I could consider….

Thanks for your reply. In answer to your queries…..

  • Every athlete joining my group knows that I coach sprinter/jumpers. I treat ALL my jumpers as sprinters regardless of their age….
  • We train for maximal speed develpment from the very beginning of the preparation phases. Initially, they are all tested/timed over runs to 30/40…some from a static start and some with an extended roll-on. There are many standardised speed tests that can be implemented…
  • The horizontal jumps in my mind are ‘speed events’ so maximal speed development is paramount. They all run indoor 60mts in competition as well as running 100’s and relay legs in the summer competitive season.
  • With this increase in speed invariaby come lower take-off angles so height is never really emphasised. I don’t want them compromising their speed at the board especially through the last 6 strides to the board. We spend a lot of coaching time running in fast and developing the ability to take-off at high speed. This helps develop reactivity…
  • What we work on is increasing the take-off distance and flight distance to compensate for this lower take-off angle. But more time is spend developing the funcionality of the take-off distance [that dynamic 'split']…
  • I do mention the old adage – speed + height = distance BUT I’m never compelled to really focus on extra height at take-off. Invariably, jumpers who ‘jump high’ don’t always jump far…
  • It’s more difficult if you coach both long and triple because of the huge difference in the take-off angle. I find that the triple jumper experience difficulty when changing to long jump within the same technical session. But as I explained this emphasis on height is less of a problem within my training group.
  • I utilize complex training in my programmes. My training groups love the combination of resistance exercises linked with plyometric exercises. The younger age groups don’t have to include ‘olympic lifts’ but utilize medicine balls and weighted vests.The JUMP SQUAT is my favourite resistance exercise and I incorporate its many variations into my programmes..

Speak with all soon..

Total Long Jump Distance

What does the coach see?I’m sure that most long jump coaches know that the total long jump distance is made up of three separate distances..[or do they?]

 

 

 

1.    The take-off distance….

2.    The flight distance….

3.    The landing distance….

I have written extensively about this in previous blogs. Any improvement in jump performance can be traced back to the effectiveness of the approach run plus any one or all of the above distances.

Although the approach run is considered to be the most important component in horizontal jumping, any improvement in those 3 distances mentioned above will add to jump performance.

I was prompted to write this short blog after observing Greg Rutherford win the European Long Jump title. If you are able to view this jump in slow motion you’ll see that Rutherford is very quick on the runway and after take-off displays an excellent flight and landing distance. His body positioning at the apex of the flight phase with his arms up and behind the head helps him to increase flight distance thus allowing him to land effectively. He initiates his leg chute by bringing his legs through quickly as short levers [first] and then driving the arms forward bringing his chest to his thighs [not inlike a pike position] and still looking up and slightly forwards.

If he had executed a better take-off distance his jump would probably have been in excess of 8.40m…

No film clip available as yet but will upload it  when it arrives on You Tube and you’ll be able to see what I mean.

I shall be expanding on this aspect in my next Friday Jumps Newsetter. Having observed hundreds of talented long jumpers performing and competing this summer I’m not so sure that long jump coaches are aware of the advantages of increasing the take-off distance, the flight distance and the landing distance…

Speak with all soon…

Winter Preparation for Jumps

Coaching Junior AthletesWell, here it comes again. Another winter preparation for jumps. At my stage of my coaching career I really need some motivation to spend countless hours away from my new home and garden…!

I’ve lost count of the time I’ve spent with athletes in both training and competitive situations over the past 40 years so need a few good reasons why I need to continue coaching.

My training group are nearly at the end of a long, hard competitive season. They are all in need of a good recovery so that they come back at the end of September totally refreshed both physically and mentally ready to put in the hard work….

We’ve had a good, competitive season. Quite a few personal best perfromances and representative honours but always ‘room for improvement’…

We’ve still got a few competitions left but a coaches thoughts should now be tuning in to the ‘next’ competitive season.

The majority of jumps coaches are involved with the younger age groups aged 14 to 18 years of age. The age of 18 brings along major lifestyle problems. They are now in the U20 age [in the UK] – not sure what it’s called in other parts of the world. This age group heralds the introduction to ‘real athletics’ where training programmes change and the mental approach to the sport changes dramatically.

But if they have received quality coaching and guidance in their formative years this transition becomes less of a problem and the changeover becomes seamless…

Throughout the next 6 months I shall be writing blogs on training the junior jumper through those skill hungry years into the junior age group and beyond. My planning is crucial…..

If you have any queries or suggestions please don’t hesitate to contact me on….

Please tell us how you begin to plan your training programmes..

nigel.lewis2a@virgin.net

So away to go….

From Nowhere to Somewhere…

NewsletterHaving worked for over 40 years with a very wide range of athletic abilities from the very experienced jumper to the very young jumper, I am now in a position to reflect on which age range I prefer to work with…

Working with any age range and ability brings along its own set of problems. In my experience, working with the more experienced jumpers who have competed at the highest level is very demanding and time consuming,  but at the same time incredibly rewarding. Working in the ‘development’ age groups [13-17] is also rewarding, but offers the jumps coach a different form of coaching which is not unlike ‘teaching’. It’s like an apprenticeship where they learn their trade. You need to be a very different type of coach..

The more experienced jumpers often join your training group having had quite an extensive ‘coaching tree’ of previous coaches. They go to University leaving behind their club coaches who have worked with them for several years and they now have to adapt to a new set of ‘skills and drills’ and coaching styles.

Some are selected for major championships and have to adapt again to the the coaching style and delivery of the appointed jumps coach for the national squad/team.

They attend regional and national squad training days and yet again presented with another differing training regime and practice. They come back and give you  feedback and ask why they are not doing what other jumpers in the country are doing….!!

Many of the top horizontal coaches have inherited quality jumpers who have come up and through the various age groups having achieved success at junior level. These lucky coaches are blessed with not having to do  the ‘donkey work’. The early stages of learning have already been done. These talented jumpers know how to warm up, they know how to drill, they know how to run a runway, they are well versed in the simple bio-mechanical processes that will allow them to run, touchdown take-off and land….

This ‘top coach’ simply polishes them up. He adds the small details that will allow a 7.50m male jumper to leap out to nearer 8.00mts and a 6.00mt female jumper to leap out to 6.40mts+….

In my opinion this is the easier work…..

Continue reading

Moving!!!!

Coaching Junior AthletesI haven’t had time this past month to update my website. I moved very recently and can’t find anything…!!

My wife is working me to the bone and wants everything done ‘yesterday’…

But just settling into a routine and will be able to put fingers to keyboard very soon.

Still working on a blog entitled ‘From Nowhere to Somewhere’…..

Speak with you all soon,

All the very best,

Nigel

The Long Jump Landing

NewsletterThe Long Jump Landing – the Leg Chute..

Key factor: The inclination of the jumper’s trunk…

KEY: If the jumper leans well forward during the FINAL moments of the flight phase, the legs are lifted in reaction to this movement and the touchdown is slightly delayed.

I know I’ve talked about this many times before BUT it is important. A good landing position can add 30cms to a jump….

It’s something I’ve been working on very hard these past few weeks with all my long jumpers. It makes sense…..

It is a timing issue and does require a lot of practice with a lot of very relevant feedback. But it’s worth it.

I’m insisting that all my group attempt to ‘press their chests to their legs [see below]…..

Landing 11

Speak with you all soon…

What Do Coaches See?

What does the coach see?Recently I asked two fellow coaches to take a look at one of my training group performing an action….

I did this because I wanted some objective feedback….

At times you can get ‘so close’ to an athlete in your training group and might miss a very obvious weakness or indeed a strength.

After the athlete had performed the skill/drill several times I asked the these two experienced coaches what they saw.

They both immediately told me all the percieved weaknesses they observed. Neither commented on what the athlete did well.

Now, this athlete is a very good athlete and strengths outperform weaknesses but it was very illuminating that they both ONLY observed weaknesses.

They made NO comment on the obvious strengths….

These type of comments are very typical of the majority of coaches. I come from a teaching background and for 28 years taught countless thousands of youngsters aged 11 – 18 years of age. I am well-versed in observation skills, analytical analysis and the giving of relevant and specific feedback..

It does concern me that the new breed of coach can only see what’s wrong. Yes, athletes will do certain skills and drills poorly at first, but to be constantly told what is wrong could be detrimental to their skilled development.

Some recent research indicates that if you concentrate on the strengths and encourage that strength it might have the effect of negating any weaknesses…

But to constantly focus on weaknesses is wrong.

When I coach and observe a drill or skill, I call the athlete over and the first thing I discuss is ‘what went well’ and ‘why it went well’. Only after highlighting the strengths do I focus on a ‘major’ weakness’ and how it might be rectified..

Speak with you soon…

 

Proprioception

NewsletterProprioception is achieved through muscles, ligaments and joint actions using messages that are continuously sent through the central nervous system [CNS].

The CNS then relays information to the rest of the body ‘telling’ it how to react and with what amount  of tension/action.

Ssome of these instructions go to the brain, where more often than not they acted on unconsciously, whilst others go to the spinal cord, where they are acted on automatically.

Proprioceptors are basically ‘sensors’ that reside within muscles, joints and ligaments. These respond to pressure, stretch and tension and are key im iniating what is known as the stretch reflex.

Proprioception is the capacity of the body to determine where all of its parts are positioned at any given time, and it plays an important role in the world of sports especially athletics and jumping…..

Think of it as a subconscious internal computer software programme that complements your conscious effort to stabilize everything, whether you’re moving or standing still. It triggers muscles to contract and relax to fit the situation.

You don’t have to think about it because your ‘internal software’ is reacting to the situation and sending instant messages to help your body make the necessary adjustments. Proprioception is also a factor in speed and direction of movement. Proprioception helps us perform better in sports and avoid injuries. Losing it because of an injury or lack of use requires a period of re-training to get it back.

There’s a fine line between proprioception and kinaesthetic awareness. Although some people use the terms interchangeably, there is a difference.

Kinaesthetic awareness is a conscious effort to react to the situation, while proprioception is an unconscious or subconscious process.

The two mechanisms work together to allow a smooth, efficient, and safe platform for movement and athletic performance. For example, a long jumper whose body acts subconsciously (proprioception) to stay tall on the runway while the jumper’s mind (kinaesthetic awareness) processes data regarding environmental issues [wind, rain, surface conditions] and anything else he or she needs to make necessary limb adjustments when running at high speeds to the take-off board….

WHERE AM I GOING WITH THIS?…………… Continue reading