High Jump Drills: Coaching Beginning High Jumpers

African American male High jumper clearing the high jump bar, athletic track event
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Replace the Bar

The first step in developing high jumpers is to make them comfortable landing on their backs. The worst thing you can do, particularly with a young person who’s come to you with a desire to learn to high jump, is to turn him/her off to the sport with a rough beginning. Therefore, you don’t use a bar to train beginning jumpers. You don’t want would-be high jumpers to knock the bar over, land on it a couple times, then tell themselves they should find another sport where you don’t end up with a metal bar poking you in the back.

 When you try these or other drills with new high jumpers, put a rope (a cord or a string will also work) between the uprights. Put some type of weight on the rope, like a bag or sock full of sand, to keep it in place. It doesn’t have to be perfectly taut to do these beginning drills. And when jumpers knock the rope out of place, it won’t hurt if they land on it.

Drill - Backflips

To start getting your jumpers comfortable with landing in the pit, have them stand with their heels against the front of the pit, with the “bar” (rope, cord, etc.) low, and have them jump over the rope and land on their backs. At this point, don’t worry about getting their feet up in the air.

When the jumpers are comfortable landing in the pit on their backs, tell them to repeat the drill, but this time, make sure they can see their hands and feet when they’re in the air. This will begin teaching them to clear the bar in a correct position.

Drill - Scissors Kick

To continue getting your young athletes comfortable with high jumping, have them simply take a step or two and scissor-kick over the bar, landing on their back. Make sure they push off with the outside leg and raise the inside leg, closest to the bar. Begin the drill without any type of bar, then add your rope or cord. The jumpers can try this drill from both sides, to begin getting a feel for which side they’re comfortable with.

When they’re comfortable with this drill, repeat it, but have the coach stand a few steps in front of an upright, at a 45-degree angle to the center of the “bar.” As the jumpers clear, have them turn their feet to point at the coach. Next, the coach will move in front of the bar - but out of the jumpers’ paths, of course. The jumpers will again turn their feet toward the coach while in flight. This teaches your jumpers how to turn in the air.

Determining the Takeoff Leg

Beginning jumpers must determine which leg they with take off with. There are several ways to figure this out. In the high jump, kids can simply try both sides and decide which is more comfortable. Alternatively, you can put a ball on the ground have them kick it. Whichever foot they kick the ball with is their inside foot for the high jump. Another method is to have them stand up straight and tell them to fall forward as far as they can. One foot will naturally shoot forward to break their fall. That is the inside leg. The other is the takeoff foot.

If the jumper’s right foot is the inside foot, he’ll begin his approach from the right side and vice versa.

Setting up the Approach Run

To set up the approach run - for a jumper starting from the right - have the jumper stand at the side of the pit, with the standard at his/her back. The jumper walks five paces forward, then turns around to be sure he/she is parallel to both standards (they should be lined up, from the jumper’s point of view). The jumper then turns 90 degrees, so his/her shoulders line up with the standards, and runs forward 10 steps, with the coach marking the position of the fifth and tenth steps. Try this at least three times to be certain the marks are consistent, then measure the final marks for the fifth and tenth steps.

The tenth step is the jumper’s takeoff point. The fifth step is where he/she will begin turning toward the bar.

Now that you've got the beginning fundamentals down, you can move on with the High Jump Technique.