Last week I shared the Cusano Drill, an acceleration drill using hurdles that I like to use with large groups. And we got into a good discussion about whether drills are worth using when athlete don’t do them right.
But the truth is that most of our sprinters spend most of their races trying to maintain and sustain top end speed mechanics, aka front side mechanics.
However, once they finish accelerating, your sprinters almost always revert to one of two wildly inefficient (and painful to watch) technical flaws:
1. Overstriding/braking (I tell my athletes it’s like driving a car while pumping the brakes continuously. I mean you can drive like that, but before long something is going to break. In terms of sprinting, that’s usually a calf or upper hamstring.)
2. Excessive backside mechanics (Plodding along with what looks like running hamstring curls)
So I’ve started using a drill that kids not only love doing, but immediately begins to fix these fatal flaws in their mechanics.
When I was at USTFCCCA Event Specialist school this past summer, Texas A&Ms Vince Anderson showed us how he does the ‘wicket drill‘. I don’t know why it’s called that, but it’s basically a drill that forces proper upright running mechanics using 18 ‘wickets’ (which are just 6″ banana hurdles) using a specific pattern of spacing.
Now, Vince uses a measured 6 step run in with an 18 wicket pattern spaced out depending on the skill level of the athletes. And just looking at his progressions for the different patterns I know not to even attempt it with my groups.
Because I coach standard issue high school kids. And he coaches Jessica Beard…..
As you’ll see, I don’t use banana hurdles when I do this drill, I use cones. Not for any other reason than that I don’t have any 6″ banana hurdles.
There are a number of reasons I love this drill. It forces athletes to run with proper technique and specifically *feel* what that movement pattern should feel like. If they overstride, they’ll kick the cone in front of them. If they revert to backside mechanics (aka poor recovery mechanics), they’ll kick the cone behind them. If they don’t step over, drive down and continue to *push* their hips forward, their shoulders will drop behind their hips and they’ll kick the cone in front of them because the increased spacing mandates that they push, not just do high knees in one spot.
So here is a video of a group of HS kids doing my (extremely) regressed version of the wicket drill. As you’ll see, some kids do it better than others.
If you want to know the particular spacing pattern I use when I do the wicket drill, as well as how I progress the drill so athletes can maintain that technique/pattern once they come off the wickets, I’ll be teaching all of it to athletes and coaches at this summer’s Complete Track & Field Clinic being held at Brown University from July 19-22.
Try it out with your kids. I can’t exactly tell you why, but my athletes get excited when I say we’re doing the drill. And it has become a great cue to use when running workouts or when yelling at them in races. Because when I yell, “Wickets! Wickets!” as they go by, they immediately know what they are doing wrong and, in theory, how to fix it.
– Latif Thomas
P.S. We use many different drills and exercises to help our sprinters run faster times. But, at the end of the day, there are only three reasons they fall apart at the end of their races. If you design training around addressing these three performance killers, you’ll see across the board improvements. Next week I’ll cover those three reasons.