Training Program

April 18, 2010

I’m thinking about writing a training program for masters athletes who want to train for the jumps.  I think it might be fun to help some of the older guys get better.  The problem is, someone might beat me if I give them my secrets…

Time Management

April 17, 2010

Well, as I mentioned in my last blog post, I went to the meet to watch the kids perform and lend my expertise where I could.  It has been a while since I visited a high school track competition and I was quite surprised at some of the things I saw.  One of the most interesting thing was the shock that seemed to come over some of the athletes because of the many events that were happening at the same time.  Some of the young jumpers found it very disconcerting to have to do the high jump and the long jump at the same time.  I thought it was funny to watch the eyes of the jumpers and see them “bug-out” like a deer caught in headlights.

The problem was the lack of time management and energy conservation.  Knowing when to relax and being prepared is key to the success of a talented high school track athlete .  One can’t arrive at the meet and forget to warm up or get your step on the runway.  Those things have to be done in advance.  Athletes in high school have to learn how to check in and out with the judge of the event.  Maintaining an even flow of the competition is vital.  Since the high jump is done incrementally, it is best to gauge the schedule around that event.  The long and triple jump can be done out of sequence so there is a little more flexibility in the timing of your jumps.  Just make sure the judge has cleared your departure.  Focus on the jump and not the competition.  If you ignore the distances and the heights and just concentrate on jumping you can conserve energy and have it available when it is needed, while jumping.

Coaches need to be conscious of their athletes and help them calm down and understand time and energy management.  Not enough education of this phenomenon is taught in high school, which I think is a bit of a shame.  Athletes need coaches to know the problems and “pitfalls” of the competition, so it is the responsiblity of the coach to teach this important aspect of the track meet.


High School Track

April 14, 2010

Recently I’ve been coaching at the local high school.  I’ve done this before and really enjoy it.  I learn more about the jumps every time I coach high shool athletes.  The most difficult part for me is realizing that I need to explain  everything down to the most detailed elements.  When I coach world class or elite athletes they tend to understand things quickly and I never have to get too detailed.  I realized that if I don’t go back to high school I lose my coaching edge.  It is always good to go back to the basics so that I can polish up my skill as a coach.  Any coach that always teaches at the top of the heap will tend to get lulled into a pattern that I think is rather dangerous.  I have learned that it is important to continue to “replenish my knowledge”.

Tomorrow I’ll go watch my athletes compete in a local track meet.  I don’t expect much because I just started helping them and I haven’t been consistent.  It will be exciting to see how much they improve or, how much they don’t improve due to confusion.  Stay tuned for the result…

Beating the Box

January 26, 2010

The other day I had the great pleasure of sharing the coaching duty with my former collegiate coach, Jim Kiefer.  Coach Kiefer and I gave a clinic together to help teach high school coaches in the Southern California area.  Coach Kiefer was really excited because he had personally cut, hammered and painted several sizes of wooden bounding boxes.  Frankly, I was impressed because I once tried to make some boxes but failed miserably.  The boxes were beautifully made and designed to boost any triple jumpers ability to fly.

Many jumpers have never had the pleasure of meeting a “bounding box” before.  This is too bad because there is no better exercise for a triple jumper than box drills.  If an athlete is able to master bounding on, over and between bounding boxes their triple jump will greatly improve.  I have rarely seen an athlete who is proficient at the triple jump that has not had a turn on the boxes.

The size of a bounding box should never be higher than 12 inches or 33 centimeters in height.  The best boxes have the following dimensions:  width 2 feet (30.5cm) x length 2 feet (30.5cm) x height 6 (15cm) – 9 (23cm) inches.  The wood should be sturdy enough to hold a person weighing 500 pounds (227kg); because that is the type of force that will be applied to the box. 

Place the boxes in a straight line and bound on and off the boxes from one end to the other.  Start with the boxes close together and slowly move the boxes apart. Keep the distance between the boxes relatively the same.   Occasionally, put the boxes closer and jump over the boxes from one end to the other.

To increase power, start from atop the first box and bound to the end.  To develop speed and agility, get a running start and try to get as much “air time” between each box.

Now, I must go try to steal some boxes from Coach Kiefer!!!

I am all thumbs!

January 13, 2010

Often young triple jumpers have trouble with their arm action during the jump.  Many can’t seem to get their arms in the right position behind them in preparation for the explosion on the ground.  I have found that a simple trick can help remedy this problem.

Paying attention to the position of the thumb when moving the arms will help enable an athlete to more efficiently place the arms where they need to be for each phase of the jump.  For example, if you place your arms in front slight bent with the hands at mouth level, palms relaxed and facing each other,  the thumbs will be facing up.  Now, move the arms as far apart and behind you as possible with the thumbs still pointing towards the sky.  If you are human your “scapula” or shoulder blade (bones in the upper part of your back), will prevent you from moving too far behind the body. 

However, the simple motion of pointing the thumb down to the ground will release the shoulder girdle and allow a significant movement toward the back.  In some athletes the hands will be able to touch behind your body.  This is a simple thing but it is important to note that in the triple jump, simple things are very important!

Coaching Coaches…

January 11, 2010

Last weekend I did a clinic for the LA84 Foundation The clinic was for high school coaches who were beginners to the triple jump coaching experience. The people who attended were very excited and interested in getting the correct information to coach horizontal events. I worked with Cameron Gary, a former triple jumper, coach and outstanding student of the jumps.

Our presentation covered the basics of the horizontal jumps and, among other things, included the following: The four parts of the approach run, the takeoff, the hop, step and jump of the triple jump as well as the landing. Cameron focused on long jump and I did my best to teach the triple jump.

The following is my outline for those who are interested.

• The flat foot is the most basic skill that a jumper must learn.
• Emphasize the middle of the foot instep hitting the ground, not the heal first.
• Not a pawing action because that emphasizes the ball of the foot.
o Squish a bug
o Break a board
o Push a skateboard

• Four parts of the run
o Start
 Static
 Active
o Power or Momentum Phase
o Rhythm or Position Phase
o Attack Phase
• Ratios 50/25/25 or 50/30/20
• The Board
o Take off in Long Jump
o Leave the board in Triple Jump

• The hop is the second most important basic skill
• Emphasize pushing off and landing on flat surface
• Slowly work them to controlling the takeoff and the landing
• Standing leg pushes off; heel to butt; then thigh parallel to ground; then drive foot to ground (no flicking)
• Arm action is important
• Triple Jump
o Double-arm action
o Single-arm action
o Mixed arm action
• Spend time on walking drills

• Hop
• Step
• Jump
• Landing

The next clinic I will give will be held in Murrieta, California for the LA84 Foundation for Advanced coaches. I look forward to doing more detailed and controversial presentations for the coaches.

Should be fun!

Hmmm…sucks to be OLD!

August 22, 2009

A few days ago I was clicking through some triple jump videos on youtube and I came across a video of me in 1983 at the first World Athletics Championships in Helsinki, Finland.  It showed the typical Willie Banks “show” and I seemed to be having fun as usual.  I thought to myself with a smile how crazy I was when I was young and talented.  What a great time I had when I was competing.  When I was young I thought there was no one else who was having as much fun as I was at that time.

After a few seconds of reminiscing I turned to the comments.  The first few comments were fairly typical.  Then I came to a comment that was a little disturbing.  The writer said that I looked like I was on drugs.  I was completely shocked.  How could someone think that because I was having fun that I was on some type of drug?

At first I was offended and wanted to fire off a “zinger” to the “idiot”.  But, upon reflection, I realized that young people today have no idea who I was and what I did in the triple jump.  They don’t know how I got started nor how much fun I had at all competitions, win or lose.  In fact, most young people have no idea that I started the clapping.  Well, I guess it is my fault for getting old…

Fortunately, now there is the internet that can be used to talk about the old days and compare them to the present.  We can discuss history and the future of the triple jump.  I find comfort in knowing that the writer was ignorant and not stupid.  Hopefully, one day the writer will read about the history of the triple jump and realize that the event is more special than he can possibly imagine.

While it sucks getting old, it sure is good to be able to take advantage of the knowledge of history to make better triple jump coaching decisions.

Championships Men’s Final

August 18, 2009

No big surprise in this competition.  I predicted that if Idowu was able to get extension on his jumps that he would win this competition.  I am disappointed that the jumps were less than stellar.  I wish I had the chance to “feel” the runway to see if the runway was the cause of the low level of jumping.  Obviously, the wind was still swirling but none of the jumpers had wind so bad that it should have prevented good jumps if the runway was fast.  Nonetheless, the competition seemed interesting even though Idowu’s jump was 20cm (about 8 inches), head and shoulders above the rest of the field.

Evora gave it a valiant try but something was missing this year and he had to settle for the silver medal.  He was very consistent and his condition seemed fine, as evidence by his best jump arriving on his last jump.  It remains to be seen if the Portuguese phenom can come back in two years to win another big victory.  Only time will tell on this fluid jumper.

Capello from Cuba finally got his act together in the last round to take the bronze but really did not prove much for the competition.  Sands of Bahamas and Girat from Cuba seemed to have off days.  I wish I could have talked to these two to get their reaction to the runway and the conditions on the runway.  Like so many triple jump competitions there are many factors that can change the outcome of the event.  It seems like this one was influenced by the runway.

One last comment about this event, both women and men’s triple jump, I hope that the USATF will take notice of the relatively poor showing, once again, of our triple jump squads and put more resources into building the US team back to its former glory.  Emphasis must be placed on coaching to the strength of our jumpers and not to the “cookie cutter” methods of the most recent philosophy on triple jump.  Just because Jonathan Edwards did it does not mean our jumpers need to emphasize speed.  We have to go back to analyzing the strength of the jumper (bouncer, speedster, or strongman) to determine what type of training formula is good for each athlete.  We need to put focus on flexibility and technique rather than speed and brute force.  We have the athletes, now we need the methods to win.

Championships Women’s Final

August 17, 2009

Just as I thought the consistently superior jumper, Savigne, won the gold medal. She quickly established her dominance and no other athlete could match her distances.  If you look at the most recent history; winning the gold is exactly the place where Savigne should be.  The fifth place finish in Beijing is an aberration compared to her frequent high profile victories.  Savigne, however, needs to work more on her arm swing to get within the world record.

Apparently, the Cubans have found the secret to triple jumping for women.  Gay, the silver medalist, rounded into form just in time.  I think, however, that the distances were really weak in this competition, probably due to the swirling winds of the Berlin Olympic Stadium.  I don’t see anything special about the jumping technique that shows something new so I am going to assume it is their physical and mental preparedness that got them on the podium.  I look forward to seeing if the Cuban men can duplicate the women’s success.  I predict it will not happen.

It looks like it is time to close the doors on the “old guard” like Lebedeva. Lebedeva’s form is so difficult to maintain and puts unnecessary strain on her hips and lower back, it is surprising to see her make it this long at the top of the world lists.

The Russian, Pyatykh, pulled a nice jump out but was not even a personal best.  It was really a fairly bland competition for Pyatykh.  She is capable of jumping over 15 meters but unfortunately, does not seem to have the consistency lately.  Anyway, the jumping surface does not seem conducive to jumping far, at least not with the swirling winds.

I hope that the US can put together a new training regimen for the women to get them over the 14m65 mark.  It seems silly that we have speedy jumpers without the ability to transfer the speed into distance.  US women need to work on power with arm and leg swing if they are ever going to catch the best in the world.

I am really looking forward now to the men’s final…

Championships Mens Qualifying

August 17, 2009

The men’s triple jump qualifying round stayed true to form.  Evora, Idowu, Sands (the Olympic medalist trio), along with Girat, Spasovkhodskiy and Gregorio are all qualified and ready to compete for the gold.  Evora seems to be picking up where he left off last August.  It will be exciting to see if Idowu will ever learn how to extend in the pit or will he continue to drop his legs without any extension.

Evora is in the best position in the finals because he will be the first jumper.  I think this is the best position because if you get a good jump off before anyone else it has a tendancy to make other jumpers “press” to the board and foul or not get a fluid jump.  The pressure of trying to catch up is like running in a distance race, jumpers tend to try to jump far quickly rather than relaxing and letting the jump come to them.  Personally, I loved to see big jumps in the beginning out of my competitors because it would get me fired up.  I really look forward to see how the jumpers react to Evora’s first jump.

If Gregorio can return to his form two years ago he could pull out an upset in this competition.  He needs a major championship to make his career a successful one.  He has jumped 17m90 but that distance was only good enough for a silver medal.  The problem with Gregorio is he is getting older and his jumping seems to be a little rusty.

I think the biggest factor in the event is going to be the swirling winds.  If one of the leaders get a nice tailwind they could jump far enough to close out the rest of the jumpers.  I hope it will be a good competition.