Several coaches are gravitating to Freelap Timing in order to get touchdowns and video for sprint and long hurdles. I asked about how different coaches use Freelap Timing to get better information easier and how to use it as a coach tool by hearing what others do. Many coaches love Freelap after understanding simple basics of using the wrist or hip watch, and I anticipate the mobile market will allow data to be streamed to the smartphone or tablet in time. In the past coaches used touchdowns, or the landing of the lead leg to get hurdle splits for athletes. The hurdle split was the repeated cycle of landings of the lead leg and coaches could benchmark progress in both negotiation of the hurdles as well as development of the athlete. The problem with touchdowns is that it forces coaches to be a slave to viewing the race from positions to either film or get stopwatch splits. Also when going in groups touchdowns became a problem because similar speed athletes would block the view. Over the last year I have gone away from getting splits using the touchdown method because it became an administrative nightmare.
One of the challenges with hurdle coaches is appraising the splits of practice times since you have three variables to look at. The first is the difference between arousal and effort of practice compared to meets, and the obvious two other factors such as hurdle height and spacings. Men’s hurdles usually manipulates spacings and heights and often takes a hurdle out for Wilbur Ross Zone drills or other configurations to get better velocities. With so many factors it’s hard not only to compare touchdowns, most coaches still use hand times to gage progress. While some coaches are great at using touchdowns, I believe that we need to get precise timing options to truly see progress in practice with the most popular workout set-ups.
My set-up is based on learning from some great coaches, such as Randy Gillon, Dave Hegland, and Brooks Johnson, all great hurdle coaches and users of Freelap timing. With some of the best hurdlers in the world using freelap, I figured I would share the simple arrangement coaches can use to get splits and video. Brooks is a big believer in immediate objective feedback with ballistic athletes, and Randy and Dave like the ability to remove the video duties of getting precise touch downs by hand that often takes hours.
I set up the transmitter 1.8-2m away from the staring line and 1.6 to 2m off the hurdle, depending on if the athlete uses the sensor as a watch or harness belt. Belt users can get consistent times with a shorter touch down distance off the hurdler but using 2m is safe for wrist based applications. I don’t like going 1m off the starting line because I find first step data to highly sensitive to the athlete walking back or getting into blocks, but experience can make this an option if coaches are trying to get the first step times. Second step data is not as ideal but the data is consistent and easy to import into excel if you work with groups. I do both depending on the length of the reps and the amount of athletes.
The tennis balls are clearly a Gary Winckler ripoff, but cutting them in half and using them for video analysis such as Dartfish is a great way to get quick information on take off distances without using the measure tool. While eyeballing is nice, it’s good to have more reliable data. I will have the markers at 2.2 meters before and 1.5 meters after the hurdle.
Coaches can get every hurdle, first and last, or just start finish with regards to timing. I prefer first and last because I have only three transmitters but if I was at a major university or institute I would have 12 or more. The first hurdle determines a lot of that goes on, but the 3rd and later hurdles show the relationship of the acceleration from hurdle one to the first five hurdles.
Technology should never be a burden, and I find the best technologies remove administrative burdens while providing better precision with measurement. With the freedom of timing hurdles this way it allows me to coach other event groups and be far more mobile to allow the human side of coaching. Our job needs valid data and time is the most objective indicator of speed. While the context and what creates speed is the root solution and cause, we need to distill reality to clear benchmarks to see results.