High school and college coaches are integrating electronic timing into their speed training programs. Here are ten reasons why.
The application of electronic timing at practice increases arousal in athletes. Ballistic athletes have a compelling desire for immediate feedback: it motivates them to increase performance and focus during training sessions.
Intervene to Stop Sessions
The accuracy of electronic timing allows the coach to closely monitor athlete performance during a workout. When times drop off, the coach can intervene to shut down the workout. The emphasis, therefore, is on quality based on time rather than on quantity with a fixed number of repetitions.
A track coach typically trains a group of athletes. Some groups, particularly high school track teams, can be quite large, with 200 or more athletes. Electronic timing technology is capable of measuring multiple athletes simultaneously, enhancing workflow while enabling the coach to collect useful data.
Various circumstances force some elite and masters athletes to train on their own, occasionally or often. Electronic timing provides them with objective feedback and challenges them to compete with their number one competitor: themselves.
Ideally, an athlete should train under the supervision of a coach. But that’s not always possible. Work or family or educational or other commitments can make it necessary for an athlete to train alone and at a location other than the usual coaching venue. Electronic timing allows the coach to plan workouts for the athlete and to review objective timing data collected by the athlete.
Focus on Technique
Veteran track coaches are often skilled with a handheld stopwatch. Accurate timing, however, requires that the coach focus on the clock rather than the athlete’s technique. Using a handheld stopwatch also typically dictates where the coach must stand in relation to the athlete to minimize parallax error. An interruption, meanwhile, from athletes other than those being timed can distract a coach and result in missed times. Electronic timing permits the coach to focus on an athlete’s technique, to view athletes from any vantage point, and to collect valuable timing data even amid distractions.
Assess Event Drills
Track meets provide an opportunity to accurately assess an athlete’s performance in an event, but they do not provide data on the drills or subcomponents that prepare the athlete for that event. Electronic timing at practice, on the other hand, can provide data on, for example, how efficiently a baton moves through an exchange zone in a 4 x 100 hand-off. Other examples include feedback on maximum velocity in a 30-meter fly-in sprint, on acceleration out of the blocks over the first 10 meters, on hurdle cycle splits, on runway velocity for the horizontal jumps and pole vault. And that’s just for starters.
Over the years, many training techniques have been devised, explored, professed, and then later debunked and abandoned. An essential question to ask is the following: Is what you are doing working? Are you sure? Does the timing data—from a single workout and across multiple workouts in a single season and over multiple seasons—support your belief?
It is easier to chart where you are going if you know where you have been. Electronic timing provides the opportunity to collect meaningful data for a group of athletes on a variety of tasks throughout a training season and across many seasons. This data can be analyzed when planning for and making adjustments to future workouts and seasons.
The number of high schools, colleges, and Olympic coaches that have integrated electronic timing into their training programs has grown in recent years. And so has the number of athletes who have enjoyed noteworthy success as a result of more accurate input. Athletes whose training involves electronic timing include Olympic and World Championship medalists in indoor and outdoor sprints, hurdles, and other ballistic events.
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