How to Train Kids to Run Hurdles
Running hurdles is one of the most difficult events in track and field. Runners need to train for maximum speed, and they also need to practice jumping high enough to clear hurdles without losing momentum or balance. Running hurdles takes speed, proper footwork and flexibility. With proper coaching and plenty of practice, you can train kids to make positive strides every time they run the hurdles.
Off and Running
You can be an exceptional hurdler, but you need speed to win races. Kids competing in the hurdle run shorter distances -- typically 80 or 100 meters -- and have to clear eight to 10 hurdles before reaching the finish line. Train kids to sprint as fast as possible before learning the art of hurdling. Deep stretching and leg swings get kids ready to run and prevent muscle pulls and cramping. Practice running as fast as possible at 100 meters with no hurdles to build speed. Train kids to explode off the starting line and run with the knees pumping high to prepare for jumping.
Clearing hurdles requires hours of training. Young runners attempting to jump over hurdles with poor technique can suffer serious injuries. In an article on CoachesEducation.com, Mission Viejo High School track coach Fred Almond stresses the importance of doing fence work to get young runners ready to compete. Place hurdles in front of a high fence, side by side, at a height of 30 to 39 inches, depending in the size and age of the hurdlers. The hurdles can be leaned against the fence to reach the desired height. Hurdlers face the hurdle and fence to begin the drill. From a standing position, they raise their lead foot over the top of the hurdle to touch the fence and then return it to the standing position. Repeat the drill with the back foot. The fence drill helps simulate clearing the hurdle and increases leg flexibility.
Training kids to use their arms when clearing hurdles is as important as leg technique. Almond likes to use the "reading your watch" drill to improve arm work. The lead arm -- which is the opposite of the lead leg -- is raised to shoulder level in this training exercise. The elbow is bent so the wrist comes back toward the nose. The trailing arm should be extended back when simulating clearing the hurdle, with the hand at waist level. The training exercise can be done without hurdles so young runners learn to develop the proper technique. Arm training allows hurdlers to jump with power and maintain balance.
Simulating jumping over hurdles is the best way to train for the real thing. The knee slap drill gets young runners prepared to lift off the ground. Start with a simple jog with the hands held near the hips. After every third or fourth step, have the runners jump like they are clearing a hurdle. The right hand should slap the right knee near waist level, and the left hand should slap the left knee. This is a good training drill to help young runners take off and land with the proper technique.
Scott Amato has been a sportswriter for a major Midwestern daily newspaper since 1985. He has covered professional baseball, football and hockey. In addition, Amato has contributed to sports publications throughout the United States and Japan. He has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Ohio University.