Strategies for Minimizing Fouling: Horizontal Jumps


During my previous article I discussed important technical components of the approach run for the horizontal jumping events. Another important aspect of a successful approach run is the ability to accurately and consistently strike the takeoff board. During this article I will discuss successful practice methods for developing board accuracy.

Even the greatest technical prowess, speed, and power will not guarantee great jump distances in the competition setting. The horizontal jumps are spectacular disciplines but can be equally as frustrating for athletes and fans alike because of the frequency that foul attempts occur.

For many years I have been interested in how to enhance the ability of executing maximum effort legal jumps. As with any skill, it is far easier to execute accurately at slower speeds or with less intensity. To be a successful long or triple jumper however you must combine near maximum speed and takeoff power with great accuracy. This is a very difficult skill to master.

@coachnicknewman Even the greatest technical prowess, speed, and power will not guarantee great jump distances in the competition setting

How to achieve a high percentage of legal jumps:

Many coaches and researchers have stated that fouling is a mental issue, pushing too hard, being greedy, or a fear of not having enough. I certainly believe the psychology of a jumper does play a large role. However I suggest that perhaps an equally important reason for foul jumps lies in specific skill development related to visual control and kinesthetic awareness.

First let’s take a good look at how the psychology or “the mental game” of a jumper can hurt performance while on the runway. Most of these psychological traits or habits interlink with one another and combined can have a catastrophic affect when trying to execute a skill, game plan, mood, or arousal level related to the specific sport or event.

Psychological issues related to Board Accuracy:


Arousal Levels
  • The horizontal jumps require maximum effort.  However, due to the board accuracy component they are not absolute performance events.
  • Due to this it is possible to become over aroused or “too hyped” on the runway. This often causes technical issues such as running inconsistencies. It is also far more difficult to successfully use visual guidance during high arousal states.
  • It is essential the athlete know his/her optimal competition arousal levels and are able to control them. An amazing example of this is Irving Saladino’s response to the famous Andrew Howe 8.47m in Osaka 2007.
Ability to Focus
  • The horizontal jumps can last 1-2 hours during certain competitions. Almost of that time the athletes are waiting for their attempt. They may spend a total of 10 minutes on the runway during that 2-hour period. Focusing energy can be very difficult for some to master.
  • The athlete must learn to focus on specific markers on the track throughout his/her approach run. With deliberate practice it will become easier to maintain a fixed focus point at the board during a competition.
  •  Eventually the athlete will be able to start his approach with a specific strike point in mind and his/her eyes will remain fixed on that point during the entire approach except for the final 1-2 strides.
  • There is no doubt that seeing the desired outcome time and time again not only increases motivation and confidence but also the ability to perform the associated skill or task.
  • Visualization is closely linked focus. The athlete must visualize legal jumps. It may sound simple but the majority of jumpers only visualize one thing and that is to jump far. A deliberately legal far jump is rarely used during visualization practices.
Self Talk & Cueing
  • Again linked with focus. Tell yourself exactly where you are going to strike the board and visualize that exact point of focus.
Goal Setting
  • A very important aspect of sport psychology. Goals that are written down and visualized are far more likely to be achieved than those that aren’t.
  • Be specific when setting goals. Tell yourself exactly what it is you want to achieve and how you are going to achieve it.
  • Always remember that legal jumps must be prioritized over far jumps that may or may not be legal. If you set goals around distance you will probably jump the distance but it likely will be on a foul attempt. The body and mind are amazing tools and can be programmed to the tiniest detail. Never forget to include board accuracy into your goals.
Personality Trait
  • I chose to list this last because it is the driving force behind the 5 sport psychology tools detailed above.
  • Athletes who are overly aggressive, passionate, aroused, competitive, motivated, and confident will often find the management of the 5 tools listed above to be difficult. These athletes are your typical “1 inch foulers”. They are so driven to jump far that it is hard for them to see anything else. They are the type who subconsciously would prefer to foul all attempts that were big jumps over lesser jump that were legal.
  • Athletes on the opposite end of the spectrum often seem under aroused and less aggressive by nature but will likely jump as far as their talents will take them. Sometimes these jumpers perform at a very high level yet seem to not care and not train particularly hard.
@coachnicknewman Be specific when setting goals. Tell yourself exactly what it is you want to achieve and how you are going to achieve it.

Skill Development related to Board Accuracy:

An accurate approach can be largely attributed to the perceptual abilities of the athlete. It is roughly during the final 10 meters of the approach where the athletes use their vision to perceive the board. During this phase of the approach the athletes make slight adjustments in stride length and frequency in aim of striking the takeoff board accurately. While it is true that certain people possess greater perceptual abilities than others, there is no doubt that this skill can be enhanced through systematic practice. A practice recommend for enhancing skills is called Contextual Interference (CI) and is used through methods of Variable Practice (PV)….

Nick Newman

Nick Newman

Sport Performance Coach / Director of Scholastic Training at Athletic Lab
Nick Newman joined the Athletic Lab staff in 2013 as the Director of Scholastic Training. Before joining the Athletic Lab team, Nick had 10 years of study and application pertaining to the development of athletes ranging from pre-adolescent youth through to the professional ranks. Nick earned his Bachelors degree in Exercise Science from Manhattan College and later earned an Masters in Human Performance and Sport Psychology from California State University, Fullerton. Nick has become an elite jumps and sprints specialist and in 2011 published his highly acclaimed book entitled The Horizontal Jumps: Planning For Long Term Development which has been endorsed by several world class speed and power coaches. Nick prides himself on his ability to teach and relate to athletes of all ages and levels. His passion and expertise in athletic development is second to none.
Nick Newman


Jumps/Multi Coach @usc_track_field. MS: Human Performance & Sport Psychology. New Book - The Jumps: A Comprehensive Training System (2021) - Stay Tuned!
@TheNBACentral @FTFonFS1 A LOT of these players are not "winners"... So, how can you legitimately not include Westbrook? - 3 hours ago

Comments are closed.