Walk before you Run (or Sprint)


[DJ Hicks is a recent graduate of Houston Baptist University and the Athletic Development Coaching Apprenticeship program at Athletic Lab. He is currently an assistant coach at Valparaiso University]

Usain-sprintIn my very short lived coaching career, approximately 2 months, one of the aspects of sprinting that have become more and more increasing evident to me is the paramount need of coordination in ensuring optimal sprint mechanics while sprinting at high speeds.

Despite how easy elite sprinters make it look, coordinating a max effort sprint is not an easy task. To be done well and in the most efficient manner possible, an athlete must possess the ability to simultaneously contract and relax individual muscles at the right time and in the right direction.  When said like this it seems as if I’m taking the simple act of running fast and over complicating it, but when considering the time sensitive nature of the short sprints along with the seemingly nonexistent margin of error allowed, it all is quite significant.

The ability to coordinate a max effort sprint starts with the ability to coordinate the most basic movement patterns utilized by humans; walking. Those who struggle with correcting inefficient sprint mechanics or mastery of complex sprint drills often time aren’t the best in the world at walking either. I’m sure that their walking gets the job done in seeing that they make it from point A to B, but their lack of postural integrity, fluid limb movement, and contraction/relaxation pattern could be to blame for their faulty sprint mechanics.  For this reason, teaching the ability to sprint well should first be initiated by teaching the ability to walk well. By taking this “ground up” approach, every aspect from walking, jogging, running, to sprinting can be mastered in steps, not moving to the next until the previous is perfected. This will hopefully ensures that once we do get to maximal sprinting, we will not be troubled with the inability to understand what it takes to do it well.