Last weekend I attended a training school put on by USA Track & Field. Officially it’s called Track & Field Coaching Essentials Level 1. It was 22 hours of lecture and demonstration of track and field events, A to Z, from a coaching perspective. Sixty-five people from around New England and upstate New York trekked to the Innovation Academy in Tynsborough for this crash course. At least 55 raised their hands when asked if they were currently coaching high school or college. These were folks doing it! I met just two other people who like myself were coaching post-collegiate adults, though both had previously spent time coaching younger athletes.
I was quite sure a good portion of the material wasn’t going to interest me. In high school I didn’t pay much attention to what those big guys were doing in the middle of the track during meets. And when I did, it was to make sure that there wasn’t a wayward implement coming my way!
The first 8 hours or so was in the classroom covering general training theory and endurance events. Good stuff! Then we moved on to sprints and hurdles before going into the jumps (the long, triple, and high) and the pole vault. Some of the afternoon was spent practicing drills on the track. The final three hours Sunday morning were spent doing throws – the shot, javelin, and discus. For this segment, I was totally out of my element. But learned a lot and some trivia like Brett Favre was an All-American javelin thrower. Overall, I gained much appreciation for the breadth of the sport. And gratefully came away uninjured after unending twisting, turning, and thrusting!
For me, there were two big takeaways from the weekend. One, the benefit of track & field events and running in helping develop a person’s sense of commitment and self esteem by learning at an early (or any!) age — “I Can Do This!” Connected to that is the vital role played by coaches in developing that sense and the enthusiastic dedication many give to these sports.
The second was EVERYTHING revolves around one part of the body — the hips! Whether it was running, racewalking, sprints, hurdles, jumps, or throws. If the motion didn’t drive from the hips, beginning in a neutral stance, the athlete was missing the boat and many inches, feet, and seconds. Every drill had a key hip component. We were also reminded that for the distance runner, improper hip movement both impairs performance and leads to overuse injuries.
Runners are told to strengthen their core. Yes, this is absolutely essential! But it’s not only the strength of the core – maybe even an enviable six pack – but also the positioning of our hips. For years, I’ve regularly used a mantra while running, “shoot from the glutes and lead with the hips.” And as I did my run this morning, I reflected on the weekend and made sure my hips were leading the way!