The meet was a "mixed bag". There were some accomplishments that I feel will fuel our jumps program moving forward; and there were some questions that I spent time reflecting upon so that we can move forward in an effort to maximize potential.
First up was the boys triple jumpers and the girl long jumpers. The girls long jumpers performed admirably but had troubles with scratches/approaches. This is completely understandable with how little time we've truly gotten to practice approaches, and so the first reflection of my day came to mind - did I do enough to get them ready? If not, how can I do better moving forward? In discussions with another jumps coach on staff and the head coach, we've decided to have jumpers work with me during sprint days to get their speed work done. This will ensure they get measured sprints (approach work) while also working on their speed and mechanics. This should have been done sooner, but it took a collective effort and reflection to make it happen.
The boy triple jumpers had some difficulty as well with boards, but the main concern was improper landings (foot contacts). Two of the boys came down with improper landings and experienced heel pain. Performing a triple jump and landing incorrectly can be extremely painful. Athletes need to understand how to keep their foot dorsiflexed (toes pointing up) so that their foot contact is flat footed upon landing. If done incorrectly (toes pointed too high up) a landing on the heel can happen, and thus result in heel pain.
When this happens, we as coaches need to plan on how to better prepare those athletes to avoid these kinds of landings. For that reason, reflection #2 began - how can I help my athletes avoid poor foot contacts? What I came up with is this - I need to better educate my athletes on proper foot contacts by using the "baby bounding" drill more frequently. This drill should probably happen daily to better assist "muscle memory" and to help them truly understand how they need to land. Once this happens I need to do a better job with helping them understand how to use that knowledge at higher speeds. So, I am going to have triple jump athletes do more speed takeoffs to condition their legs better. We've done so many mechanics-focused drills and I unfortunately didn't do as much mechanics work with speed as I should have.
Next up was the girls triple jump and the boys long jump. Again, there were a few things that came to mind that left me questioning/reflecting on our training methods.
The girl triple jumpers did well for themselves! There wasn't nearly as many scratching issues as the other groups, but their jumps did leave me with another realization - I need to communicate that approaches in the triple jump need to be done at a comfortable speed (a speed that aides in control while performing the phases). As I watched the girls pull off their jumps with fairly good mechanical form I realized they were doing it at very low speeds. Even they were voicing how "slow" they felt. Even though most of the athletes that performed at this meet were veteran jumpers, I think some of them forgot that control in the approach is vital in the triple jump. I need to do a better job reminding them of this in our upcoming training sessions...
The boy long jumpers had a great day. One athlete (Dom) had a great season last year, but I cut it short so that he could focus on the high jump. Watching him jump for the first time in quite some time was great! He took 2nd place, and still has a great deal of mechanical things to work on. Once he figures out a few things, he's going to have an amazing season! One athletes (Jamel) set a new PR by jumping over a foot and a half farther than his previous best. For the past few season I have told Jamel how crucial he will be to the jumps program, and I feel like he's finally seeing that for himself! I'm very excited about his season. He took 5th. The last athlete (Owen) nearly matched is personal best, and seems to be on his way to a GREAT season. All boys performed wonderfully and had no scratching issues. The one thing that did stand out is their need for landing work, but that is something I expected. The landing (especially in the long jump) is one of the hardest things to perform consistently. We will continue to work on that as we move forward.
I truly believe it takes a good coach to realize their shortcomings and to reflect such as I did during this meet. Writing these blogs as a way to help other coaches plan for their athletes needs to be truthful if I hope to help as many people as possible. To admit that I too have things I need to work on is hard, but something that I have no problem doing if it means helping others.
To continue my reflections from the day though, I need to add a reflection that had nothing to do with me but with other coaches around me. I witnessed a number of things that honestly upset me during the day. There were coaches that had little/no knowledge of the jumps putting their athletes in danger. There were athletes landing improperly by performing the "bail out landing" (where the landing nearly sideways in the pit. There were coaches that thought verbal cues like "hit the board" and "get your knee higher" were adequate coaching. Lastly, there were coaches that berated their athletes and used negative words and body language to "coach" their athletes.
I may have my shortcomings as I mentioned before, but the one thing I will never be guilty of is laziness, negative actions/words towards my athletes, and/or a desire to be the best I can be to understand all that encompasses the long and triple jumps to keep my athletes safe. I IMPLORE every coach read this blog to do the same!
We have a lot of work left to do. I have no fear though that with my athletes' desires to be at their best and my desire to make them their best we will have a wonderful season together.
Reflection, desire, motivation, and hard work are necessary in EVERYTHING we do as coaches. Make sure you (and even your athletes) do it daily!
Speed day - going to work on approaches more than originally planned. More time with my jumpers should lead to better results as far as "boards hit" in the future!