[DJ Hicks is a recent graduate of Houston Baptist University and the Athletic Lab Coaches Mentorship at Athletic Lab. DJ is currently an assistant coach at Valparaiso University]
It’s my favorite time of the year. The division I championships have just taken place, diamond league meets are in full swing, and the special once-every-4-years treat, the Olympic Games, are on the horizon. Oh joy! As a track and field enthusiast, there is nothing better than the 4-month period in which the summation of the season’s hard work is put on the line at the various levels championship meets.
On day 1 of my 3-day division II championship binge-watching spree, I could not help but notice one of the heptathletes using an atypical high jumping approach. I’m no high jumping coach, but what I saw this girl do was not normal. My very first thought was that her coach did not know what he/she was doing, my second was that the athlete did not know what she was doing, and my third was maybe neither of them had a clue. For the duration of the event, I spent the entire time dissecting everything that I believed to be incorrect, all the while missing one very important fact: she was clearing bars.
Too often, I feel that coaches (including myself) forget that we are thoughtful human beings capable of working outside of the box and coming up with training philosophies by ourselves. We get so caught up in what we have long-believed to be right that we miss out on potential learning experiences. Was the high jumping technique used by this girl optimal? Not sure. What I do know, however, is that she got the job done. This athlete could possibly have had some injury that prevented her from doing what is “normal,” or be so advanced that what she is currently doing will be the new normal in 5 years. Who knows!
As soon as our first inclination stops being to automatically judge unusual technique in any event as a consequence of faulty training, especially without having all the facts, we can open the door to better understand. From this point, we as coaches will be able to produce better athletes.