Often, at the high school level, it is common for coaches to persuade their athletes to join the track and field team after finishing up their preferred fall or winter sport. Likely, the main goal for encouraging an athlete to go out for the track team – or the objective for an athlete transitioning to track & field – is to “stay active,” “develop speed/power,” or “get stronger for the next season.”
Though not as common at the collegiate level there are times when individuals express interest in becoming dual sport athletes. Participating in two sports in college is not impossible but it takes a special type of athlete to accomplish this, especially at the professional level.
Indoor track & field programs usually add athletes that are coming off of football, soccer, volleyball or field hockey. Spring programs usually pick up athletes from basketball and swimming. Although similarities can be drawn from all types of athletic training, track and field training is more specific in structure considering the multiple events, training cycles and the number of weeks within each season.
There are a few questions I ask myself when I adopt an athlete from another sport:
1) What types of training has the athlete been exposed to over the last few months?
2) What types of training are missing from the athlete’s workouts that relate to their track & field event?
3) Does this athlete understand the concept of a team sport versus an individual sport?
Most fall sports consist of lots of acceleration bursts with shorter recoveries like we see in football, soccer, and field hockey. Therefore, if the athlete is a short sprinter or a jumper they have been checking a lot of the energy system requirements for these event groups. There may be less energy system adjustments that need to be made, however, more focus may need to be on some of the technical aspects of the events.
* Coaching Recourse: Hurdle Rhythm: Drills & Progressions
These athletes coming off of a football, soccer or field hockey season just want to be “quick.” These athletes will naturally spin out of the blocks as they try to be as “quick” as possible. This is when I think of the quote by Jedi Master Yoda, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” It will be paramount to get these athletes relearn the feel of proper acceleration— which may not always feel “quick.”
“It takes patience to run fast in track & field.”
– Vince Anderson
These same athletes usually run low. I call them “low riders” because they drop their hips while sprinting. This is usually carried over from sports like soccer, basketball, and field hockey because the athletes are concerned with the protection of the almighty ball that is in play. It will also be important to help these athletes transition to a world where it is crucial to keep the hips up and run tall.
“Posture is the first most important aspect of speed.”
– Tom Tellez
If you have a triple jumper coming off of basketball then this athlete has been exposed to some good training and lots of vertical jumping. It will be necessary to introduce the feeling of horizontal jumps. The last thing you would want is for the athlete to feel vertical off of the board in the triple jump. This phase has way more of a horizontal component and feeling that probably has not been part of their daily routine in basketball.
“Create as much horizontal displacement as possible at take off in the triple jump.”
The piece that is often forgotten or is never introduced to new athletes is the mental transition from a true team sport to an individual sport. The “player” is used to having teammates around to push them and help make up for any mistakes. Seriously…if I am playing football and I miss a tackle there are ten other guys on the field that can help back me up. However, if I come down the runway in the long jump and foul…that is no ones fault, but my own and everybody knows it.
“Track & Field is the ultimate athletic event. There are football players, basketball players, tennis players but we are track & field athletes.”
– Paul Souza
* Training Resource: Advanced 400m Training Concepts
Coaches need to make sure there is a team aspect to various practices so the multi sports athlete feels that they are being pushed and in a familiar practice environment. It will also be important for the coach to help the multi sport athlete to understand the focus on one’s self during the individual events. A lack of understanding of the individual feeling of an event will certainly lead to failure. These types of athletes will need a little bit of a team feeling with a new sense of individual awareness and focus.
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Edited by Nell Smith