Identifying Mental Traits for the “Workhorse Sprinter”

Posted by Marc Mangiacotti

Have you ever had an athlete or athletes that could win multiple events at a championship meet?

These athletes are better referred to as your “Workhorse Sprinters…” Your multitalented sprinters who can run the 60 meters through the 400 meters and who might even be able to find success in a field event or on a relay leg.

And then there is the combined event athlete who can score points in an individual event and the MultiEvent.

Can you think of any athletes on your team who fit this description?

Since the sport of track and field requires a lot of mental strength, it is important to note the mental capacity it takes to be considered a “Workhorse Sprinter.”

With mental traits, the first thing we have to look for is someone with a positive personality. These student-athletes are going to be working with various event groups so you want to make sure that they are a positive contributor to each event group.

You don’t want someone with negative personality traits because then they are carrying all of that negativity, not to just one event group but to every event group they might be training with on a given day or given week or throughout the entire year.

We also want to find a highly motivated, highly driven student-athlete.

Are they willing to do more work?

We also want to find student athletes with good self-esteem. If you do one event you’re probably going to get a lot of constructive criticism from your coach. If you do multiple events you are probably going to get more constructive criticism from your coach. So, we need to have good athletes that understand what constructive criticism is, how to internalize it and stay positive, move forward and learn.

We also want to find people who are leaders especially if they are going from event group to event group to train with other people.

We want people to lead in the right direction and not the wrong direction. We also want to look for athletes who have a high pain tolerance. They are going to have to do a lot of different types of training and sometimes it’s going to be really hard. So, we want to make sure this is something that they are up for.

Are they up for the challenge?

It is important to take a look at the history of stress for your athletes. The athlete as a “Workhorse Sprinter” will deal with high pressure situations. They are going to be in more events than most, which means they are also going to have more stress and more pressure. And if they are someone that doesn’t do well with stress and pressure, then being a “Workhorse Sprinter” is probably not something they will care for.

One of the tests I use is the 4×400 meter relay test…

Towards the end of a track meet if you walk up to group of athletes and you ask them to hop on the 4×400 meter relay, if they are the first ones to walk away, they are probably not going to be positive team members with good leadership that are highly motivated and they probably don’t have a high pain tolerance.

So, they are not going to be the people that you identify as Workhorses. The ones that jump at the opportunity to do something are the ones that you probably want to focus most of your attention on.

Marc Mangiacotti - Marc Mangiacotti enters his seventh season as an assistant coach with the Crimson for the 2018-19 school year. He oversees the men’s sprinters and hurdles for Harvard University. He is a USA Track & Field Level I and II certified coach in sprints, hurdles, relays, jumps and combined events. Mangiacotti came to Harvard after a two-year tenure at Brown University. During his time in Providence, R.I., he made a big impact on the Bears’ sprinters, coaching five Ivy League champions that combined for nine league titles. He also coached 15 athletes that earned All-Ivy League credentials and saw his group break four school records.

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