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Coaching Spring10:Coaching Spring 09 6/14/10 12:55 AM Page 28

With girls’ teams, I start 14 shoe lengths back from the beginning of the acceleration zone. The outgoing runner stands at the back of the zone on the small triangle and walks back 14 shoes. That’s where she puts her tape marker. Depending on her speed or experience, I may adjust that somewhat, but not a great deal. We don’t do full relays in practice. We save that for meets. In practice I have the incoming runner start about 20–25 meters away and then run into the zone. I emphasize the exchange happening within the first 10 meters of the zone. I don’t believe in two runners alongside each other for 20 meters and then a handoff. We get in and then get out. The other advantage of an exchange within the first 10 meters is that you have room for some margin of error if for some reason the runners aren’t ready or in the proper position. If a team waits until the last 10 meters of the exchange zone and then has trouble, that team won’t make a legal exchange. I have our boys’ team measure back from the small triangle in the acceleration zone 17 shoes. Once again, a piece of tape goes there. Some teams use more than one. We use one. If I have a runner who doesn’t accelerate as fast, I will leave the tape at 17 and move him up two shoes ahead of the small triangle. This takes time and you have to have patience working with them. My teams learn this on a cinder track and then just have to make minor adjustments warming up at meets. Once a good running order is established, don’t change it. A few years ago I had a very fast boys’ team and decided to change the order. It threw everything off, and they didn’t respond well to it at all. A team is only going to run so fast. You can’t take two seconds off by changing order. Don’t fix what isn’t broken. As far as exchanges are concerned, I coach right to left to right to left. Our method is blind, overhand exchanges with the thumb pointed in. I prefer this because if the incoming runner is too high, he or she can slide the baton down the lower arm to the hand. The outgoing runner is responsible for a quick, explosive start and extending the arm on the signal. We stay away from signals like “stick’ or “hand” because many teams use those cues. I make the cue personal with short, one-syllable commands using either first or last names in a shortened form. I also instruct the outgoing runner not to feel or grab for the baton. That responsibility lies with the incoming runner. What typically happens in a poor exchange is both runners are reaching around to deliver or receive the baton and they work against each other. Once again, the responsibility of delivering the baton lies with the incoming runner. Another critical coaching point for the outgoing 28 Coaching Athletics Quarterly - Spring 2010

runner is to focus on their team’s lane and their team’s lane only. Younger athletes get caught up emotionally in the race and see the other seven teams approaching. Their basic instinct is to take off or their team will be behind. The result is leaving early and the exchange is either stretched out far too long or the exchange doesn’t happen at all. Relay runners need to understand they can only control their team and there is nothing they can do to influence the other relay teams in their heat. Practice exchanges every day. Our exchanges are done every day right after the team warms up. Don’t practice exchanges at the end of practice or after a hard interval night. Relay members need to be fresh for exchange work. It doesn’t take a long

Another critical coaching point for the outgoing runner is to focus on their team’s lane and their team’s lane only. Younger athletes get caught up emotionally in the race and see the other seven teams approaching. time, but working on it every day leads to good meet performance. We get to meets one hour early with ample time for all our athletes to have a proper warmup. After the team warms up, I take both the boys’ and girls’ sprint relay teams immediately to the first exchange and practice. I want those teams to work on exchanges before the track gets busy with all the other schools. Relays develop a sense of camaraderie and excitement within a group of young athletes. It also gives athletes a chance to go on to the divisional and state meets when they never had an opportunity to qualify in individual events. Relays are the truest form of teamwork in the sport of track and field. Photo: Victah, www.photorun.NET


Coaching Spring10:Coaching Spring 09 6/15/10 9:20 PM Page 1 PRST STD Lisa Coniglio, PhotoRun.NET U.S. Postage Permit #50 Fort Atkinson, WI C...