We were running races at track practice last night. I paired up kids so I’d have 2 kids of similar speed running together. The race was a slight downhill on grass of about 60M. I was at the bottom with my watch giving the starter’s commands. The kids know to stand tall, step up for “On your Mark!” crouch down for “Set!” and then start on “Go!”. With kids running from age 4 to 12, we had quite a range of times and skill levels.
After three rounds, I ran up to the start and gave two bits of coaching:
- Run through the finish. Pretend the real finish line is 10 steps past where I’m standing.
- Keep your knees high- just like we do in the High Knees drill.
I ran back down and began calling them up to the line again. Here’s the best part- Every kid ran a little faster than they did on the previous three rounds!
Now to hurdles. Same race course but with three hay bales turned on their side making hurdles that were knee high for me. I gave some brief instructions and this time we went one at a time since we only had one “lane” to run.
After three rounds, I gave one bit of coaching:
- Remember your arms? How do you use your arms for sprints? It’s the same for hurdles. Practice your arm swing. We all stood there and practiced arm swing.
Back to the races! As each kid came to the line I’d yell, “Remember your arms! To your Mark!….” Again every kid ran faster.
So the lesson the kids taught me is that the little things really do matter. Of course, I’ve heard that many times from teachers, coaches, and other wise people over the years. But nothing proves it as clearly at the numbers on a watch and a smile on a runner’s face.
Maybe Al Oerter summed it up best:
I’ve thrown for forty-five years on an average of 10,000 throws a year. That’s 450,000 throws and not one of those throws has ever been perfect. There was always something else I could have done to make the prior throw just a little bit better. I think if we attack life in that same manner we can do some wonderful things on this earth.
-Al Oerter Four time Olympic Gold Medalist