The start is one of the most important aspects in the jumps. Many athletes and coaches don't seem to spend much time on this focus but I do and have seen a great deal of success since changing my views on the start and its importance. See my suggestions below.
"90 percent of scratches are due to poor starts."
A couple of years ago I did an extensive amount of research on how to help my athletes become more consistent at hitting the board. My team was struggling with that, and I was becoming frustrated at the high number of jumps that were taken from us in important meets. There is nothing more frustrating than an athlete jumping a meet-winning jump, or a new PR, and it being called a scratch.
So, I set out on a mission to find ways in which we could be more successful/consistent and I stumbled upon an article that changed my thinking completely. The article stated that "90 percent of scratches are due to poor starts."
How could this be? How could the first handful of steps at the beginning affect your ending at the board? I was very unsure of that opinion but was so set on fixing our scratching issues that I dove head-first into the idea and I am so thankful I did!
The Old Start
Before I read that approach-changing article my team used a started called "the waterfall." This is done by standing on your tippy toes and catching yourself as you lean forward. Once you catch yourself that starts the approach. Your body is at a roughly a 45 degree lean and is supposed to give you momentum going into the full-on approach. What I came to realize is that this start is widely inconsistent in the fact that athletes were never catching themselves at the same angle when falling forward, and the percentage of intensity when they landed on that first step changed daily.
Many people think that an approach should be about rhythm - I agree. What many of them mean by this though, is that the approach should be slow starting (which I disagree with) so that you end at your top speed (at the board). This thinking kind of makes sense, but do you realize how many athletes (especially younger ones) can hit a board when you tell them to work on their "rhythm?" Almost none. The waterfall approach is highly flawed, and one I honestly wouldn't suggest due to its inconsistent beginning, and the overall belief in "rhythm."
The part of rhythm-approaches that I do agree with is that rhythm is extremely important, but can only be built over time. It is something that only comes with a large amount of experience. If you watch a collegiate athlete run down the lane you generally see that they have a "rhythm" about them. An aura that screams I could do this in my sleep. It takes them many years of training to get to this point, and attempting to build rhythm using the "waterfall approach" is nearly impossible in my opinion.
The "Crouch" Start & Drills
Once I realized the downfalls of the waterfall start I started researching like a "madman" to find a new starting technique that would best fit the needs of my athletes. I searched nearly everywhere, and finally found what I was looking for in a DVD package sold by "Schexnayder Athletic Consulting" (SAC). I chose his "crouch start" because it mimics coming out of the blocks very closely. The idea of finding a start that had elements from block starts was too hard to pass up.
I want to make things as easy as possible for my athletes. By doing this they better understand what I am coaching and generally experience positive results because of it. My belief is the more the athlete knows the better; and using something like the crouch start is infinitely easier with jumpers (since they already know how to perform a block start) than teaching them "rhythm."