It’s time to get down to the hurdle nitty gritty. My hurdle practices often resemble a borderline disaster.
Sure, I have some kids who have finally developed the ability to three step, cut step and pull their trail leg through.
But it’s hard to help them when I’m so distracted by the nightmare taking place around them…
-Why is that girl doing the seven step stutter between hurdles?
-Young man, it’s not the high jump. We run over the hurdles, we don’t jump them.
-Ladies. It’s a 33” hurdle. Just step over it and keep running. Don’t make it a dramatic episode.
-Good Lord, pull your trail knee into your armpit! If you keep letting it dangle behind you you’re going to hook the hurdle and kill yourself.
And I’m not trying to get fired today.
Hurdle practice, especially early in the season, usually has me standing there with a look of almost terror on my face because, well, young kids suck at hurdling and I want them to be good *today*. And it feels like, at any moment, some 15 year old is going to clip a hurdle, trip and break their face on the track.
I think that’s why every program seems to have 146 100m runners on the team and 6 hurdlers.
It’s not easy to learn so kids are afraid of it. It’s not easy to teach to groups, so as coaches we tend to under-coach the event. If you’re a college coach you get to hand pick your hurdlers. You don’t have these types of problems. If you’re a high school coach, you get what you’ve got. Usually that’s a hot mess.
Last year, for example, I had a girl who started the season running 23s in the 100 hurdles. Yes, 23 change.
By the end of the season she ran 17. and qualified for the state meet.
A world record it isn’t. But it’s a big improvement and you could almost see the self confidence grow with every second she shaved off her time.
I’m a big fan of quantum theory. I believe if you want to figure something out, you need to understand things at the most fundamental of levels.
Developing hurdlers doesn’t have to be so difficult or confusing. (Or dangerous). But it does take a plan. And that starts with getting down to the nitty gritty and understanding some fundamental truths about working with high school aged sprint hurdlers.
I go to Tony Veney for most of my hurdle knowledge and here is what he has to say about the concepts that should be the foundation of your hurdle coaching philosophy.
Tony Veney spent six seasons (2003-09) at UCLA as an assistant coach for sprints and hurdles. Veney established himself as one of the premiere hurdles and sprints coaches in the nation. Fifteen Bruins earned either indoor or outdoor All-American status under Veney. He also coached six Pac-10 Champions and four NCAA West Regional Champions. Veney also served as the recruiting coordinator at UCLA.
Before joining the North Carolina A&T Aggie Family, Veney’s latest coaching position was as the head men’s cross country and head men’s and women’s track and field coach at Ventura Community College. His other collegiate experience includes stints at Portland State (2001-03), the University of Oregon (1998-01) and Cal State Los Angeles (1996-98).
Veney began his coaching career in 1976. He served as Occidental College’s head women’s track and field and cross country coach until 1979. In 1983, he returned to the college ranks as the assistant track and field and cross country coach at Cal State Northridge. In 11 seasons, Veney coached three NCAA National Champions, 33 NCAA All-Americans and 15 conference champions.
A USATF Level I, II and III Clinician and certified USATF Master of Coaching, Veney has produced two sprint and hurdles training videos, has written two sprint and hurdles training manuals and published a sprint/hurdle book called “Conditioning for Track & Field.”
There is also an international component to Veney’s background. Veney was the head women’s coach for Team USA at the Goodwill Games in Brisbane, Australia in 2001. Eleven years earlier, he was the Olympic Festival Sprint Coach. Veney was also the sprints coach at two Pan American Games, the 1991 Junior Pan Am Games in Kingston, Jamaica, and the 1995 Senior Pan Am games in Mar Del Plata, Argentina.
Veney graduated from UCLA in 1976 with a B.A., degree in history. As an athlete for the Bruins, he was a part of two Pac-8 and NCAA Championship teams.