Steal this idea immediately!

Posted by Latif Thomas

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a thief. I steal other coaches’ ideas like it’s my job. In fact, I consider it to be a fundamental part of my job. I was a featured clinician this past weekend at the Wisconsin Track Coaches’ Clinic (I’ll be writing a review very soon) and despite the fact that people were supposed to be stealing from me,  I still managed to steal some great ideas from other successful coaches. But, as the saying goes, ‘The best coaches make the best thieves.’

Yup. I stole that too.

Nonetheless, I think I’ve finally come up with something that I don’t believe I stole from anyone else. That’s right. An original idea. And if you use it, it’ll help your athletes achieve better results, regardless of event and without lifting a weight or running a workout.

For the first time in my coaching career, I coach in a truly horrendous league. It’s bad. Real bad. We won dual meets this winter to the tune of 95 to 5 and 88.5 to 3.5. No exaggeration.

That type of abuse led kids on my team to get an extremely false sense of what ‘good’ performances were. After all, if you can score varsity points jumping 14’ in the long jump, then that’s a problem once you go against real competition.

I’m a believer that our minds create our reality. If you think 14’ is good, you’ll jump 14’. If you think 16’ is good, you’ll jump 16’. Neither is good, but you get my point. What I had to do was change the level of expectation my athletes had.

Why do some programs win year after year and turn out great athletes year after year? It’s not ‘gray area’ supplements. There’s nothing special in the water. If you’re a freshman boy and you come into a team competing for titles then you walk in to a resonant frequency of ‘we win titles’. If the varsity kids on the 4×2 team all run 22 change, you’ll say to yourself,

‘I can’t run 22s but I can run 24s.’

And that’s your starting point in terms of expectation.

But if you walk into a program where the expectation is just to win some dual meets and have pizza parties every other week, then you walk into a resonant frequency of ‘let’s run for fun’.  If the varsity kids on the 4×2 team all run 24 change, you’ll say to yourself,

‘I can’t run 24s, but I can run 26s.’

And that’s your starting point in terms of expectation.

More wisdom from Latif: The Key to Success in the Long Sprints: Speed Reserve

The reason why my athletes and teams have won titles and broken records at every school I’ve coached isn’t because I’m some savant when it comes to writing workouts. It’s because I set a higher standard of excellence and the athletes choose to raise their level of expectation. Of course you have to know what workouts to do and when, but the athletes do the work. I just point and yell in an attempt to steer them in the right direction.

So, I came up with a ‘Performance Standards’ list for my sprinters/jumpers/hurdlers. I created 4 levels of performance, defined what each standard meant and posted the minimum performance needed to achieve that level. If you achieve a performance above the lowest (developmental) level, I put your name and performance on the list for everyone to see.

Here’s that list:

Legend: If you achieve performances in this range, congratulations, you’re probably not paying for college! You have officially reached Legendary Status and we’ll be talking about you 10 years from now.

Elite: Performances in this range will likely put you in contention for a placement or a victory at State Level Meets.

Sub-Elite: Performances in this range show you are developing the skills (speed, strength, power, coordination and event specific technique) required to be competitive at the state level, but have yet to make that ‘next level’ leap.

Developmental: Performances in this range mean you have not yet developed the skills (speed, strength, power, coordination and event specific technique) required to be competitive at the Sub-Elite and Elite levels.

Now, the specific marks will depend on where you live. The warmer the weather, the faster the times. A 50.0 400m runner in Massachusetts is a 48.5  kid if he grows up in Florida.

The main thing with this list is that I don’t put up names and times at the Developmental Level. You have to at least make a ‘Sub Elite’ performance to get on the list.

I’m going to use the 300 as an example because that’s what we run here and since most of you don’t run it, you won’t get distracted by the times:

Boys 300m  – State Qualifying Time 38.74 (you don’t get on the list just for state qualifying)

Legend (34.99)

Elite (36.75)

Billy Lyons 36.65

Sub-Elite (37.75)

David Hyde 37.64

Tom Raposa 37.73

Developmental (<37.75)

In this random example, the kids running real times get to see their names on the list. But you’ll have varsity level kids who don’t have their name on the list. So the kid who has qualified for the state meet, but with a time that won’t do anything, doesn’t get on the list the same way the lower level kids don’t get their name on the list. In this instance of Jedi Mind Tricking your athletes into raising their level of expectation, you’re saying:

‘Your time isn’t any different than the slowest time on the team. So, if you want to make a relay or be competitive against real competition, you’re going to have to step it up.’

And if your kids are competitive, they’re going to start focusing on getting, at the very least, a sub elite time.

Try it. It works. If you don’t get it, ask questions.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If you’re still sending your 400m runners on 2 mile runs, don’t know what triple extension or low heel recovery is (or know how to teach it) or have your kids running ridiculous workouts like 12x200m, then this list is the least of your worries.

In that case, or if you want to steal some good information to help your program compete for titles or set school records, I recommend this:

Complete Speed Training Volume 2

If you already have that, then get this:

Legends of Track and Field

To your success,

Latif Thomas

P.S. The Top 3 reasons to follow me on Twitter:

1. Email is getting outdated. Stay current and get exclusive info that I’ll only be announcing via Twitter.

2. I have censors (sort of) who control what I say in the blog and through email. But on Twitter, I release the beast.

3. When I find good info scattered throughout the ‘net, I’ll tell you about it here. It won’t be in emails and it might not always be track related. But it will be interesting.

Check me out:

Latif Thomas - Latif Thomas owns and operates Complete Track and Field and serves as the Co-Director of the Complete Track and Field Clinic at Harvard University, the largest track and field clinic in the United States. A popular speaker and presenter at some of the largest coaching clinics across the country, Latif has true passion for the sport and it definitely shows. Over the past 19 years, he has coached more combined League, Division, All-State, and New England Champions in sprints, hurdles, and jumps than he can count. Follow @latif_thomas on Twitter.

Related Posts

What We Learned Shadowing Boo Schexnayder and the LSU Track & Field Program

Long Sprints Training with NCAA D1 Northeast Region Coach of the Year Marc Mangiacotti

Max Velocity is more important than Acceleration

How to ‘Reverse Engineer’ the College Schedule to fit HS Season Length

Unicorns, Show Ponies, & The Mythical Straight Leg Bound Progression