Track Coach

High Jump Roundtable PART II

Coordinated by Russ Ebbets

This is Part II of a wide-ranging discussion of high jump technique, training and related issues.

The panel: PS—Paul Souza was the head coach at Wheaton College, 1995-2011. His women’s team won eight national championships. A Level 1 and 2 USATF certified coach and has served as the national vertical jumps chair for men’s development. He still holds Penn State’s indoor HJ record at 7’4 ½”.

RN—Retired high jumper Rick Noji finished 8th at the 1991 World Championships. His personal best in the high jump is 2.31m (7’7”), achieved in 1992.

DS—Dwight Stones needs no introduction to track fans. He is a three-time world record holder in the high jump and won two bronze medals at the Olympic Games. Since retirement, he has been a color commentator on television, and still coaches young athletes.

MC—Marissa Chew is currently an assistant coach at TCU; she has also coached at IUPUI and Wabash. She is a Level 3 certified coach in the jumps.

DK—Dave Kerin coached at Middlebury College for 14 years. He still serves as the chair of the women’s high jump, coaching education level 1 and 2 committee. He is a Level 3 coach and a USATF master official.

What are some talent identification tests you use—vertical jump, standing long jump, others?

MC — Standing LJ, 5/10 bound test, overhead back toss (medball)

PS — As far as identification tests, vertical jump and standing long jump are NOT always good indicators of high jumping. High jump is about force application. Applying a force to the ground with one foot to lift your center of mass. I think a standing triple jump is a better indicator of the high jump because the athlete is applying force to move the center of mass. In a standing long jump or vertical jump there is no application of force. I’d also line the athletes up and ask them, with a few steps and a one foot takeoff, to try to touch the net or rim on a basketball hoop.

DS — When I get a new jumper, I have him/her show me what they’ve been doing with their approach and their technique execution. Then I jump them from 4-steps and start evaluation where their approaches should be based on their height, their speed, their plant target, etc. Then I have them run full-turn 100m at approach speed and count their foot contacts so they learn to find their correct stride length. I really don’t use other tests to evaluate their abilities. If they’re high jumpers only, and I think there are other events they should consider, e.g., LJ, TJ, 300m hurdles, 400m, etc., I encourage them to try them. I also encourage them to get with the TJ coach to learn how to bound and with the hurdles coach to learn how to utilize their arms better.

Bar clearance — are there any special exercises or stretches you use to create and maintain spinal mobility with things like back arches or stretches on a large physio ball?

RN — Back stretches, hip flexibility and rotation, neck stretches and strengthening.

MC — I specifically use both of those exercises and vary the controllables on each. Back arches can be done by walking the hands down the wall vs. just elevating the body to inversion. Physio ball reach backs can be aided by a partner or have to be independently for stability.

DS — I have the jumpers do standing back jumps so they can activate the important muscles for better controlling their layouts. Bridging is key as well and the physio ball is a great tool.

PS — I like jumpers to do back arches on a physio ball or on their own from the ground. I also have a back arch drill where I or another athlete lie on our backs and hold the jumper in an arched position with our hands on their shoulders and our feet under the back of their knees. Also active stretches like Scorpions which put the hips and spine through a full range of motion are advisable.

DK — They are mostly “HJ Theatre” and add ramp jumping. Ramp use is anecdotal coaching, not grounded in scientific realities. Bar clearance issues rarely stem from lack of mobility. They trace back to the nature of runup and jump. What I see these days, I describe as “Long Jump with a Cirque du Solei finish”. When watching video, look for orientation of hip and shoulder axes entering third step from plant requiring a hard pivot in spikes that don’t want to pivot, resultant loss of lean, then a straight run at the plant.

In the pre-season—how much and what type of work is done before the first jump day? What does the first jump day consist of? How many jumps, how high?

DK — The focus is on getting the tendons, joints, muscles ready for the jumps and impact of jumping. So we start with low amplitude, low altitude jumping and movements. We graduate that to repetitive jumps/skips to lead into the running and jumping. The first day will consist of short approach jumps with a box or ramp.

RN — Foundation work – heavy lifting. As jump day gets closer weight workouts become lighter. Sprint workouts always carried through jump days, but somewhat modified from what the sprinters would do. What does the first jump day consist of? A lot of approaches, the short approach jump work. Concentrating on my lead knee and being quick over my takeoff foot. Good body position; not leaning in on takeoff. Box jumping or springboard. How many jumps? If early in the season I did not have a count. It was more based on if my body started to break down. How high? Started low – 6’2”, progressed to 6’8” or 6’10”. I don’t recall going above 7’.

DS — I addressed this a bit earlier. I jump my kids about 70% from a 4-step approach, not more than that the first couple of weeks of jump training. As we get closer to competition, we transition to more and more full approach jumping in practice in groups of three so I can gauge when they’re running out of gas.

What is the intercept point and how do you calculate it?

DK — Draw a standing rectangle. Place a dot in bottom right corner. Add dot in top left corner. Bottom dot reflects intercept (curve start) top dot reflects left-foot plant location. Draw a curve connecting the dots. Now widen the rectangle away to the right, short of forming a square. Add new bottom right dot. Draw new curve connecting top left to new-wider bottom right. Any added width away from the original intercept enables tighter curvature. And all curves require 5 steps to get from 90 degrees to bar, down to attack angle effectively.

DS — Ah, there’s the rub! Since I invented the “J” approach, which I wished I had never called it, I’ve been re-training jumpers how to run the approach correctly. An 8-step “J” approach is not 4 & 4 as so many coaches believe it to be. For me, it’s 2, 2, and 4. Two steps in a straight line to a mark determined to the side of the standard (for me that was 4.40m). The next two foot contacts are “transition steps”, designed to set up the turn proper. The last four steps are in the curve to the takeoff target. Those “transition steps” are what few coaches know how to coach and jumpers have a tough time learning. I stand/sit directly behind the jumper so they run away from me on their approach. I watch to see that they go in a true straight line to their mark. After that second foot contact, I look to see that their bodies begin to “fall” toward the center of the “circle”. That “falling” is not to be done from the hip to the shoulder but from the ankle to the shoulder. It’s a full commitment of the body to properly prepare to run the serious part of the curve. The third foot contact will be in that initial straight line but the fourth foot contact will be slightly inside that line and the body will be fully committed to the curve. It’s easiest to see all that from behind the jumper. By the way, I have found over the years that most girl jumpers are between 9 ½ & 10 ½ feet out from the standard and guys are from 10 ½ & 12 feet out. This all depends on where their plant target is, their physical height, and how high they’re jumping, of course.

RN — For me it was my fifth step. I honestly don’t remember my measurements. To calculate I ran a reverse approach several times. Coach placed a tape mark on my fifth step. I then selected the mark that felt most comfortable and put me in the best takeoff position. During meets I would mark my fifth step as a gauge of accuracy and rhythm in my approach. I think most of my career I was around 14’ out, 60’-70’ back.

How do you teach the drive leg? Do you teach shrugging the shoulders?

RN — Plyometric drills, bounding, box jumping, tension bands, sprint workouts, and in the weight room I used standing hip machine; drive the lead leg and finish on my toes. Do I teach shrugging the shoulders? No.

DS — I focus on the four things the drive side leg/knee do. 1) distance traveled (long levers/physical height are a huge advantage here), 2) speed that distance is traveled, 3) how high that knee is driven (stress getting it beyond parallel with the ground), 4) how long you can keep it there! That’s why we jump a lot from short approaches as that isolates the technique with less of a speed component. I’ve lately been focusing on two and three step approaches in order to better teach the relationship between the execution of the “sweep & pull” with the arms and the quickness of the penultimate step to plant steps.

MC — I teach that the drive leg needs to be pushed into position and has to be blocked (mostly at parallel). I don’t cue the shoulders unless the athlete is doing it innately.

DK — Drive the free leg knee vertically. Plant applies force to the ground while “blocking” the body’s plant side, accelerating the drive leg side. This creates rotation of the body about its vertical axis, establishing back to bar position. Plant foot placed parallel to the bar creates undesirable torque and obstructs rotation. This finds jumpers pre-turning their shoulder axis before plant in a misguided attempt to fill the demand for back-to-bar rotation.

PS — In terms of the “drive leg” in the high jump, I try to avoid using the word “drive.” I prefer the term “swing leg” because the leg swings through from the hip. That way the hips are guaranteed to move. The idea of the high jump is to displace or move the hips up toward the height of the bar. Swinging the leg through from the hip will help achieve this.

How long do you rest between a track workout and lifting weights on the same day? Do you do any special nutrition during that break time?

MC — If weights and track workouts are on the same day I don’t mind if the lifting is post-workout. If it has to be before the track session, I try to have as much time between the two as possible (e.g., 8am lift, 2pm track). Depending on the timing, if the weight room session is post track our nutrition station has quick energy items like fruit snacks or juices that the athletes can consume.

RN — About an hour. Do you do any special nutrition during that break time? No, my diet was lousy.

DS — I don’t mix lifting and sprint/interval training on the same day as I don’t want to injure my young jumpers. I have more digits than there were times that I did those activities on the same day.

What do you use for alternate fitness in pre-season or between seasons? Basketball, volleyball, something else?

PS — I tend to avoid activities where the legs are heavily involved in between seasons or in the off season. The idea is to allow the jumpers legs to recover from the work of the regular season so that they can begin the year rested, strong and ready for a good year of training. I prefer swimming and bike riding or any non-weight bearing exercise instead of volleyball or basketball.

DS — If my jumpers are already participating in those sports, I encourage them to keep doing those things that are carryover to high jump. I’m always concerned about my jumpers getting injured doing those other activities but there’s nothing I can do about it. Trying to take it away from them just creates animosity.

MC — I have used the pool in the past, in addition to sand volleyball, jump ropes, yoga. I am apprehensive about basketball due to the rate of rolled-ankles.

RN — basketball, golf, racketball, swimming/pool workouts

Current world record holder Javier Sotomayor (Cuba)

How do you peak a high jumper? Are there workouts over the last month that you shoot for? How much rest is involved? Any special weight training?

DS — I addressed this earlier. I have a periodized training program (ICP) that accomplishes this. It’s very similar to the program I used for most of my career and it has worked beautifully at all levels of jumpers I’ve coached over the past 28 yrs.

RN — Everything was light and quick and rhythmic. No heavy lifting or bounding. Intensity/quality counted over quantity. Before a big meet I used to take two to three days off; only stretching, resistant bands – light and fast, and approach runs, and a few pop-ups. Any special weight training? Only light, fast resistant bands.

Do you do box drills? What type, number of contacts and how high are the boxes? Are they routinely the same workout or is there much variation from one workout to the next?

DK — Only from a standing, back-to-bar start, and not very often. I encourage people to stay away from ramp jumping. The nature of the runup to a box/ramp differs greatly from the same in competition jumping. You can’t run to a plant on a box or ramp like you do in a competition jump and joint stability is compromised. Torque prior to, and misalignment at plant are an injury tag team often working against the tibia. Ramp jumping primarily assaults the ankle and bones of that foot.

DS — I make my jumpers aware of box drills as part of their plyometrics training but I don’t have that equipment available to me. I mostly work with my jumpers on actual jumping and approach work and sprint/interval training.

RN — Yes, I loved box drills, especially used during high jump drills and 2, 3, 5-step approaches. Started low at 6’4”, then progressed higher as number of steps increased. The highest the bar was set at is 8’. What type, number of contacts and how high are the boxes? Total number of contacts ranged from 3-8. Worked on lead knee, foot placement, body position, arm action and foot quickness. Box height was 12”, maybe 18”. Rarely used a box spring. Are they routinely the same workout or is there much variation from one workout to the next? Basically the same.

How much actual running do you do? How do you quantify it – miles, minutes or meters? Is it predominantly jogging, interval work (what type?) or running technique form work?

MC — We do a limited amount of running for the HJers. Dependent if they have any other events specifically but at minimum they will do sprints from 30-150m with focus varying from acceleration, rhythm, technique. In the warm-up, they will jog 800m consecutively followed by drills (sprint and jump oriented) for up to 30m.

DK — Again, you can hold your breath and high jump. So, what contributions to the jumper from running are you looking for?

PS — In terms of running workouts, I train high jumpers similarly to short sprinters. Short runs of 10m, 20m 30m, 40m up to 60m. I also do one day a week of longer sprints like 6x 200m at 75% w/2 mins. recovery.

DS — I was a sprint/interval trainer and I advocate that for my jumpers. The amount of meters on the long sprint/interval day is usually between 1000m-1200m and the short sprint/interval day is 750m-900m. Early season is more focused on restricting the rest and running a bit slower in order to achieve that. Example: my first sprint/interval workout of the season was on the first Tuesday in October. It was 4 x 300m with 3 mins. rest in 45 secs. I would reduce the time by .5/week until I reached 42 secs. (6 weeks) and then I increased the rest to 5 mins. and kept reducing the rest by .5/week until I got to 39 secs. By then (12 weeks) it was competition season. I ran everything with spikes on as I felt I needed everything to be on the balls of my feet.

RN — Off season – I did mileage – 1-2 mile warmup. 3-4 miles as a workout, then lifted. During season I didn’t go more than a mile. Sprint workouts during season. How do you quantify it? – miles. It is predominantly jogging.

Do you ever jog with a weighted vest or barbell? What about weighted clothing or the old red brick in the backpack?

DS — I don’t believe in weighted training. In my honest opinion, it screws up the timing of everything. I know people have had success with it and God Bless Them!

RN — Weighted vest only pre-season, and not that often. Usually when Coach Shannon wanted to baseline the weight people.

MC — Jogging, no. Drills, yes.

DK — Vashti [Cunningham] has had success training in weighted clothing. Despite some who have argued differently, they’ve done a remarkable job managing training and competition to keep her healthy. That’s no small feat given the forces she generates while intentionally carrying minimal mass. There is a difficult balance to strike between sufficient strength to support joints under load while not carrying any unnecessary body weight.

What type of eccentric training do you do? At what point in the season does this work end? What are the benefits, as you see them, of this type work?

DK — I have been a proponent of drop landings since my research on eccentrics 20 years ago. I also like isometric holds in key positions of the run and plant. Static posture holds are also an opportunity to address visual targeting. And iso holds teach the jumper to associate the degree of foot friction sensed with a corresponding degree of inward lean.

DS — I have my jumpers stop all plyometrics, except skipping pop-ups, three weeks prior to the meet where they want their season “peak.” We shift our squat lifting to “equal jumping depth” and focus on the concentric component and speed.

RN — Squats, box jumping, elastic bands, weightlifting – cleans. At what point in the season does this work end? Squats and cleans – all year round. Weights go from heavy to light during season. For me the benefit early season was that it set a good foundation that I carried throughout the season. Lighter quicker weights keep my muscle synapses firing.

How do you feel about the Jumps Decathlon? Have you ever used anything like this before? Any pros or cons? What point in the season would you recommend this done? If you used this was it an annual event (i.e. – conclusion to a Fall preparatory phase) or more a spur of the moment idea?

RN — I like the jumps decathlon. When coaching, it’s fun for the kids; instant feedback and gets the competitive juices going. In college it was fun because you see so many different types of athletes. You have a chance to see everyone’s athletic ability. It’s a different level than high school. I remember at the University of Washington seeing a 225 lbs thrower jumping 10+’ in the standing long jump! So explosive. I don’t remember my stats in the jumps decathlon… Yes, good baseline during early training, followed up just before competition phase of training… Early season…In high school it was a spring event. Coach Bundy only used to baseline performance. In college it was a fall event. Everyone under Coach Shannon had to participate. It was amazing to see the athletic ability of the throwers; male, female and they. You could see the explosive ability in each athlete. It also brought out the competitiveness in each one of us. It also created camaraderie. It was fun to participate and watch.

DS — Sounds like a great idea and a lot of fun for the kids. I’ve only had a couple jumpers who did all three jumping events and I wasn’t a fan. He was a better high jumper than anything else so I allowed him to take a maximum of 2 LJs and 2 TJs/week, meaning, if he scratched on the first LJ or TJ at the dual meet, he could take a 2nd jump to establish a legal mark. That’s all! Only runway work during the week.


Are there any events you see as complementary to the high jump? I’m thinking of a Junior Olympic athlete here. At what age does specialization in the high jump become the pre-eminent goal?

DS — 400m and 300m/400m hurdles. TJ for those old enough to learn the technique. I detest LJ/HJ combo though I encounter it a lot. LJ and HJ share only three things; i.e., the word “Jump”, the rhythm of the last four steps, and the fact that you’re in the air for approximately one second. Outside of those elements, long jump is terrible for a high jumper! I believe kids should try anything they think they’d like or be good at through their sophomore year in high school. By then, they should have figured it out and they need to focus on what they can actually improve at and achieve their potential.

MC — I have found that the HJ and LJ correspond to each other and that is typically the complementary event for an athlete who tends to HJ. I would say that for a collegian, that is when it becomes prominently specialized. It is getting younger and younger that the athletes are specializing in the vertical jumps but that is happening as a society, the specificity of movement at an earlier age.

RN — Closest I can think of is the long jump and sprints. …It depends on the athlete and the program (high school, college, club) and the success they are having in the high jump. I knew sophomore summer of high school that high jump would be my primary event, with the sprints, long jump being secondary.

Early on, Coach Shannon made it clear he wanted me to specialize in the high jump. I think if I had the physical strength going into college, I could have added the long jump. Most likely as the athlete progresses in his career, the more likely he will specialize.

What role does consistency play? I’m asking about a mental approach to training and competition but also performance, as in developing the ability to produce a consistent height despite less than ideal conditions.

MC — Consistency plays a huge role. There is comfort to be had when a movement has been accomplished in repetition with success.

PS — To me, consistency is the key to the high jump. There are so many variables that can affect the outcome of each jump, therefore, the more consistent a jumper is, the less is given to chance. High jumpers are creatures of habit. The more consistent the routine you develop for them, the less likely they are to have inconsistent performances.

DS — Training for athletics is no different from studying for an exam. If you read the chapter, answer the questions at the end of the chapter, review your notes, etc., you should be confident that you’ll do well on the exam. Once you develop a system for training/studying and you execute systematically, you have to believe you’ve done all you can to ensure a successful performance. I know that sounds terribly simplistic but, though I was a terrible student because I did none on the preparatory work, I was a rote, consistent, possessed athlete in training because I knew I had limited physical talents and I had to do everything to develop those talents if I was going to have any chance of competing against those who were much more physically gifted, and in systems where training was their job. I was a Master Technician, an obsessed maniac in practice, but only a B+ athlete.

RN — Consistency plays a big part. During big meets you always wanted to perform at a high level. Consistency transcends into many facets of one’s career on and off the field, such as reputation, sponsorships, meet invitations, competitors. My usual routine before a meet was to visualize the things I worked on in practice for the week, visualize my approach, cadence of the run-up, clearing the bar. There are so many factors to prepare for; track surface (I had two-three pairs of shoes with different spikes sizes and types), time of competition, weather, number of jumpers, long or short competition, number of jumps, height progression, etc.

Patrick Sjöberg (Swe)

What is the number of jumps you prepare for in competition? How many competition jumps are necessary before an athlete “feels good?” Or do you teach that the warm-up should produce someone 100% ready to go?

DS — I’ve always believed that jumps 5-7 are your best efforts. You’ve established a comfort level with the facility, the prevailing weather conditions, etc., and you’ve had a few warm-ups and several serious, competitive efforts where you only need to make small adjustments if any. That fact should inform your starting height and you must be honest with yourself about misses you might have en route so you can maximize that window. Because of the amount of background training I did to endure 50 competitive events/season, I was confident of good efforts up to and including jumps 9-12. I actually set my first WR (2.30m — Munich — July 1973) on my 18th jump of the night as I routinely took many, competitive straddle jumps in competition in those days, so I started at 1.90m that night.

RN — I prepared for as little as 4 to as many as 10-12 …warm-up should get you ready, but mentally the first jump was nice to clear!

PS — A high jumper has 7 to 8 optimal jumps in him per competition. This should help determine starting heights, etc…Thus, I prefer full approach warm-up runs and short approach jumps in competition warm-ups, rather than full approach jumps. Save the great jumps for the competition!

MC — In comp, it is ideal to jump approximately 7-10 attempts for us. I would like the athlete to be ready to go when competition starts. If they are the type that needs a comp jump to “feel good” that is built into the count.

DK — If you do a quick dive into meet results, you will find that the highest makes in competition occur in a range, say 5-7th jump for a high schooler and jumps 6-9 for an elite. So opening height selection and first jump makes should attempt to get the athlete to the goal bar height targeting those ranges ideally.

How do you recommend one manage time at large competitions that may take several hours to conclude? Any tricks to maintain one’s mental focus, energy levels and general jump preparedness?

DS — I tell my jumpers to conserve their energy by just sitting still and reading/studying rather than constantly moving/stretching during a meet which manages some nervous energy but also dissipates stretch-reflex and general energy over time. I did it differently because I wanted my competitors to wonder what I was doing. I would go over to other events and coach some of my teammates, I’d give splits to our middle distance runners, and generally enjoy the other events going on around me, always being aware of when I would be “in the hole” so I had the time to mentally prepare for my performance. That was the method I chose to get into my opponents’ heads. I would recommend it as a general practice!

DK — A cheetah sits in the shade, bolts out for ‘dinner’, walks back to the shade… Athletes need mindfulness, purposeful short distraction, timely re-arousals, micro re-warmups, pre-attempt potentiation, and importantly, a shared coach/athlete comprehension of the mission prior to the competition.

PS — As far as managing time at a competition, I think it is important for jumpers to stay mentally engaged in the competition. This includes knowing where you are in the order and where you are place-wise in the competition. Also, I am not a big fan of athletes listening to music between jumps. Music can raise an athlete’s arousal level at a time when they should be resting. The best time to listen to music is right before your name is called so you can carry that arousal into the next jump. Also, the jumper should have a short warm-up routine before the next jump that includes some kind of active stretch and an explosive movement (i.e. in-place jump) to activate the nervous system.

RN — Stay warm, keep sweats on, develop a routine, listen to music, talk to competitors, stretch, jump rope, watch rotation, short sprints. Training – aerobic

What are some competition strategies you promote? First makes? Number of jumps?

MC — I always encourage first attempt makes. There is a confidence that is taken from that.

RN — Plan out jump progressions – opening height. Know where you’re jumping; place/stadium, know the surface, time your jumping, expected weather, travel schedule, etc. When in competition concentrate on what you as a jumper need to accomplish. It’s just you and the bar. Don’t concentrate on how well other jumpers are doing. However, be mindful of how many competitors are left in the field — know their misses and makes – when field narrows — you may need to skip heights to your advantage. Number of jumps? 4 to 10 jumps; 3 to 4 heights; 7’2” – 7’8”.

DS — I try to impress on my kids that they MUST be first jump clearance jumpers. Muttaz Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi helped me drive this point home this season with their spectacular, historic high jump competition at the Tokyo Olympics. I didn’t always follow my own advice, but I was supremely confident in my training, my technical expertise, and my will to win so that I was mentally prepared for high level, third-attempt clearances. That takes time to develop so I’m relentless with my kids about being in the moment on the first attempt.

DK — First jump makes are mission specific, not strategy. Coaching that is grounded in facts, accurately discusses the supporting sciences, logistics, etc… in a way that bridges to practical application. Start with the facts then form opinions, not the reverse. Many HJ educational resources present opinions as facts.

What are three common mistakes you see jumpers make and how would you correct them?

DS — 1) Stopping using the arms on the approach. Using the arms, for the most part, are a “conscious” cue that you must constantly reinforce. The moment a “conscious” thought comes into the mind of the jumper on the way to the bar, the arms will stop working, which changes everything. 2) Getting off the penultimate step too slowly for the height being attempted. 3) Getting too deep in the straight part of the approach which facilitates a late, sharp turn and a jump that goes down the crossbar instead of to the back corner. 4) Bonus common mistake, using too much speed!

MC — 1. Rushing the approach and not allowing the approach to set up the jump (be patient and trust your timing) 2. Jumping into the crossbar (keep your body up and away from the bar to allow for you to rotate over) 3. Rushing out of flight (finish the jump, hold your positions to complete flight)

DK — Any three are likely from less < 5 step curves. Use Lane 1 on indoor 200m track. 5 steps to the finish line then 5 curve strides. Tighten only after seeing early acceleration, initiation of a solid curve run honoring key positions and posture to plant. Note: A semi-circle run is revolution about a fixed point, not each step seeing rotation about the long axis of the body. And, spikes don’t pivot so after limited ROM at the ankle they are cranking on the femoral notch, extremely…

RN — Not running a curve, stepping out on their second or last step, leaning into the bar.

PS — Three common mistakes I see jumpers make all the time are:  Starting too fast, cutting the turn to the bar and diving across the bar toward the pit.

Starting too fast. Using the verbal cue “Push, Push, Push” will cause the jumper to focus on pushing out at the beginning of the approach which should in turn slow them down.

Cutting the turn to the bar. Using the verbal cue “Inside Out” will cause the jumper to keep the inside foot to the outside shoulder which will, in turn, keep them properly in the turn.

Diving across the bar. Emphasizing proper arm and leg swing should help the jumper the “hit the vertical” and keep him going straight up rather than across the bar.

For a youngster – how do you decide which leg him/she should jump from?

PS — Determining the takeoff leg can be tricky. One would think that whichever hand you write with, your opposite leg will be your strong or takeoff leg. That, however, is not always the case. You can try sneaking up behind your jumper and shoving them in the back to see which foot they put forward to support themselves from falling. In these days of lawsuits, however, that is not advisable. I still prefer having them take several one footed takeoff jumps at a target to see which foot they takeoff with naturally.

MC — I have the new jumper try to jump and reach something high (e.g., a basketball rim) with the directive that they must take off on one leg. I will take note of which foot they jump off of.

DS — If they long jump or hurdle, that’s pretty easy. If they do no track & field event that would determine that, I have them stand still with their arms at their sides and look straight ahead. I stand behind them and shove them lightly between their shoulder blades and see what leg goes forward. 99 times out of 100, that’s their takeoff foot.

RN — I use the basketball layup technique to determine what is the dominate leg.

How much does the take-off point move as the bar gets higher?

DS — I tell my kids that the plant target doesn’t change until the crossbar is over their heads. Once that happens they’ll need to determine how much extra distance they need in order to have enough room to elevate so they don’t hit the bar on the way up. I had a formula that served me pretty well but it’s something that’s very individual and is learned over time.

PS — I always used the 6-inch rule. 6 inches back for every 6 inches up.

RN — For me my takeoff point did not move much as the bar got higher. Slight adjustments may have been required depending on weather, track and surface conditions.

What is the correct head position over the bar? What should the eyes “see?”

MC — The chin should be elevated or off the chest while going over the bar. I ask the athlete to find a point of contact for the eyes behind the pads (a scoreboard, tree).

RN — For me, back and to the right side.

DS — If it can be learned/taught, the head straight back, a la Eddy Annys (BEL), Patrik Sjoberg (SWE), Ivan Ukhov (RUS), etc. is ideal for maximum “arch/layout”. Barshim is also great at this. I could never learn it because I had a very small foam rubber pit that I learned on in high school so I developed a head position that permitted me to be certain, midair, that the pit was underneath me when I was going to land. I missed most of the pit enough times that that technique stuck with me for my entire career. I did not have a great layout and that probably cost me 2-3 cm., ultimately.


How do you handle body weight management? This can be a touchy, even dangerous subject. Who is involved in this discussion past the athlete and coach (i.e. nutritionist, team physician, etc.)

RN — On a coaching level I have not had to deal with this issue. For me keeping weight on was always an issue. I struggled with food allergies as well. Diet was difficult. I basically stayed with foods that I know I could tolerate. Hard thing is when you start to travel all over the world. I guess, thank goodness for McDonald’s and pizza!

MC — Body weight management is a conversation related to strength to weight ratio and the demands of the event. We discuss what is ideal for success in that event group and include the nutritionist to help achieve the proper nutrition to achieve that. We would include the team physician if there is a concern of health issues.

DS — A long time ago, I developed a good workaround for this discussion with my mostly female jumpers. “Power to Weight Ratio!” I’m not interested in getting into a sketchy area about weight with my jumpers. I teach physics and geometry when I’m coaching high jump. My jumpers know Newton’s Laws of Motion and I tell them, you have a choice, you can get taller and improve your power to weight ratio or you can modify your eating habits. I usually make sure the parents are present when I’m having this conversation. I’ve never had any blowback using this approach.

Patellar tendinitis in the takeoff leg is an occupational hazard for high jumpers. Do you have any strategies for preventing, lessening or treating this condition?

DS — I deal with shin splints 100 times more than any patella issue. These rubberized tracks have increased this problem tenfold over the past 20 years. By monitoring running form and plyometric execution from time to time, I can spot these problems before they surface so it hasn’t been a problem for me.

RN — Good overall conditioning especially exercises that help strengthen around the patella. A good cool-down regimen, along with icing.

Do you have any recommendations for returning an athlete to competitive form who is “all jumped out?” What do you see as the causes of being “all jumped out” in the first place? (note – obviously there is jumping but I’m thinking along the lines of schedule, too much weights, personal life, travel, etc.)

DS — Unlike myself, I stress to my jumpers that track and other activities are “extra curricular” and their academics have to come first. So yes, I impress upon them that they should do as I say, not as I did and I’m very honest with them about how risky my simple plan was. Unfortunately, I’ve only had a couple athletes in my coaching career who displayed the kind of dedication to the event and their training for the event that came close to how dedicated I was. It’s hard to get that through the heads of 14-18 yr. olds these days.

RN — An athlete must know their limits mentally and physically. Constant communication with all coaches and trainers involved are key. An athlete’s training should be balanced, not too much weightlifting, jumping, or running, etc. Travel is difficult, and I understand that there are sponsorship commitments, financial needs, but the team that supports the athlete must help an athlete manage his schedule. Mental health is so important to an athlete. Talking to a sports psychologist is highly recommended.

For your female jumpers – how much of a concern is the Q-angle (the angle formed from the widest point of the pelvis and the vertical line from the tibial tubercle)? Is it ever measured in your program? What is done with the information?

DK — It is of great concern while also being unalterable. A coach described a rival’s women jumpers as having knees wrapped better than he wraps gifts at the holidays. HS athletes, parents and coaches, go online to perspective college team’s websites. Something as simple as photos showing this, or multiple stories of injured athletes of either gender, likely represents 2D coaching of an event with 3D demands. Also, Google Valgus…

DS — This is far too technical and “inside baseball” for my level of high jumper. I take a look at the parents and that usually informs me as to what I can expect. We’ve all experienced the phenomenon of the freshman girl who’s a potential world beater only to see them perform far below that level by the time they’re seniors. Enough said!


What do you see as the significance that the longest held records in both men and women’s track and field are in the high jump?

DS — You can’t ignore the PED component. Would Javier Sotomayor still be the world record holder without the drugs? Probably, but not at that height and not for this amount of time. Same can be said about Stefka Kostadinova. In my opinion, Muttaz Barshim set the WR in Brussels in 2014 when he cleared 2.43m. That was 25 years after Sotomayor cleared that height in Salamanca, Spain for his first WR. Several women (Blanca Vlasic, Heike Henkel, Brigetta Barrett) have been capable of eclipsing Kostadinova’s WR (2.09m) since she set it in Rome, at the 2nd World Championships in 1987 but it hasn’t happened and I see no one on the horizon who is capable. There’s nothing that can be done about it. It has hurt the popularity of the event, without question.

DK — Find a clip of Stefka [Kostadinova]. You see technical efficiency and mastery present day jumpers fail to emulate. Freeze the clip at plant and see her left side joints in alignment, shoulder through ankle. Then watch her rise out of the two leans (inward and backward) on to the plant takeoff. Then, what seems like an eternity of vertical flight until rotations resulting from work prior to plant kick in. With the talent pool this country has, we should never lack for medal contenders and threats to break records.

Any resources and these could be videos or books you would recommend for further study?

DS — Anyone who has put their time and effort into trying to produce books, videos, films, etc. about technical events must be doing it as a labor of love. There’s no way you can make back the time, effort, and money you spent doing it. I’ve been in the media for 45 years so I know what I would do if I was ever stupid enough to try and produce a video. I haven’t gotten involved in this area because the amount of bad information I would discover would drive me nuts.

MC — I’ve used all of Boo Schexnayder’s material as a base of knowledge to set up training.

DK — Sports Biomechanics / The Basics, 3rd Edition, by Anthony J. Blazevich.

Athletic Ability and the Anatomy of Motion, 3rd Edition, by Rolf Wirhed Mosby Elsevier. Stability, Sport, and Performance Movement by Joanne Elphinston, Lotus Publishing. Track and Field Omnibook, First 2 Editions, by Ken Doherty. Tafnews Press.

Video clips: Stefka Kostadinova, Mutaz Barshim (his non-injured years)

‘96 Atlanta Games — Men’s & Women’s HJ Final Interviews/Articles: Ed Jacoby, Dan Pfaff, Bob Myers, Centripetal Force, Fibonacci Sequence, High Jump articles found in pre-2000 T&F periodicals…

Research by: Dr Jesus Dapena, Dr James Becker, Dr Rodger Kram, Dr Sarah Churchill ALTIS Coaching Education Program: The High Jump

Anything else you’d like to add?

DK — An optimized jump lands mid-pit at near mid-depth. It has residual bar rotation such that they end up kneeling on the pit looking back at the bar. The nature of arrival at plant and execution of takeoff is tied to this. Pull up a clip of Fosbury at the ’68 Olympic Games. See how effortless his gold medal 2.24 jump looks. Then consider Coach Berny Wagner said Dick was not one of the better athletes on his Oregon State team. Write for greater detail on any responses or for any questions.

DS — Nope, I think I’ve covered it as well as I can in this format.

RN — After competition I used to analyze my performance. At times I used to dwell on the negative. Questioning what I could have done better. Sometimes for days. One great piece of advice someone gave me years ago was to analyze your performance, ask what I could have done to improve, what were your successes, write it down, learn from it (practice it), and then move on/forward, put it in the past. This advice took me from a negative to a positive mindset. I still use this advice today in business. Also: Have a vision 1-3-5-10-20 years ahead.

How can you leverage your track career into your next career? No matter how successful you are in track, you will want to seek out new challenges. The discipline, dedication, and critical thinking that you learned during your athletic days will transfer to your next career.

Take advantage of free travel. Take time to get to know the country and place where you are competing, even if you are there just for a day.

For those athletes towards their end of their career – transition is not easy. The lifestyle change can be emotionally challenging. Just remember you are not alone. Keep in touch with your current and former competitors, teammates, and seek professional help.