Until a sprinter masters the start everything else he or she does in preparation and training for their chosen event(s) can end up to be all in vain.
Yet despite the start’s importance in the outcome of a race—when it comes to youth and high school sprinters—it is where you will find the least amount of time spent on learning the basic principles, physical mechanics and technique on how to come out of the blocks properly.
To illustrate what can happen when an athlete and coach truly—invest—in improving the start, we need to look no further than Papillion-La Vista sophomore Kenzo Cotton who went from running 10.8s and 10.9s to legit 10.5s and low 10.6s by making dramatic improvement in his start technique.
Now I’m not saying that this next person I mention and their coach(s) have not invested the time in improving the athlete’s start, but I’m going to borrow Millard South’s Clara Nichols simply as an example to illustrate a poor starting technique.
If you watch Clara (the top girl sprinter in the state) run the 100 or 200 her head will pop almost straight up after her second step out of the blocks. Once you do that you lose your drive and end up going into your acceleration phase way too soon. However, because she can get away with it and still win—there is no pressing need to get her start down right. Unfortunately, this is also the case with so many of the best youth and high school sprinters.
“Trust me; if for no other reason—out of necessity a sprinter is forced to master the start at the college level. Or they will perish.”
Now just imagine the times Clara Nichols would turn in if she just had an—average— start instead of a poor one like the kind Kenzo Cotton used to have until he got some “religion.”
Get my drift?
Coming out of the blocks during the drive phase the sprinter’s head should remain down as he or she drives for at least the first dozen steps and then the dig phase begins as you finally transition into the acceleration phase.
Oh, there is a lot more to understanding and learning the technique of a proper start. Fortunately, most of the coaches out there can teach it but it is ultimately up to the pupil to invest in it and to grasp it. All you need to do to see that it is “gospel” is to look at what it did for Kenzo Cotton.
Below are a few videos that can point a young sprinter in the right direction: 1.shows the mechanics of coming out of the blocks 2. Simply shows some of the world’s best sprinters coming out of the blocks in slow motion 3 and 4 provide some real good tips and drills to improve your sprinting (caution: language the instructor throws two f-bombs in video 3).