L.A. Jets founder and coach Mike Cunliffe, tells ClubHouseGas about proper training techniques for young track and field
Tags:Training Young Track Athletes,clubhousegas,coach mike cunliffe,Football,Running,track and field,youth sports
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Female Speaker: Massage therapy is expected for Olympians. But what about for eight-year-old track and field athletes. Massage is only one part of an innovative approach Coach Mike Cunliffe has used to produce multiple track and field, all American athletes in the short time of period, since he founded the Seattle Speed Track Club.
The former USATF, All-American Athlete and long jumper for Washington State University filled us in on his coaching style, when we caught up with him at the LA Jets Invitational back in May.
Mike Cunliffe: Essentially we wanted to allow the kids to have a more proper or more correct way of training that would keep them injury free. They were able to train with a lot of the top athletes, that ran in the Pac-10 back in my day, and get proper technique training. We have chiropractors and massage therapist that work with the kids and donate their time and it just allows the kids to stay healthy, get the proper training and when kids run faster, they are happy.
We have the four-pronged approach. So, we focus on flexibility, then there is actually a whole section set aside for flexibility training, combination of yoga with pilate type movements, then we work on the actual running on the track, that's two days a week and then we do a plyometric work and some strength work with the older kids.
Female Speaker: Coach Mike said mental preparation and individual attention are also key components of his coaching style.
Mike Cunliffe: We had this meet on the schedule, nine months before we got here. You get the kids ready by training them in specific ways, two weeks prior to getting here. There is the mental aspect of getting them ready. One of the ways is just letting them be kids and letting them get nervous the way they get nervous. Reinforcing, but that's okay. If you need to cry, cry but run fast while you're crying.
Each athlete is motivated in a different way. So some of the kids I may talk to, some of the kids I may not talk to, just depending on their make up, right. That's a part of coaching, right so, as you know interviewing all, a lot athletes, that's what we try to do is understand, each athlete. We have eight coaches, dealing with 35 athletes, plus one massage therapist and three chiropractors. So, we're able to take each kid and really think about them in order to move them along.
Female Speaker: When it comes to the younger kids, coach Mike says his training focuses on speed rather than distance.
Mike Cunliffe: That was told by a friend of mine who is somewhat of a mentor and a very wise man in track and field. And we had a discussion about training younger kids about three years ago and he told me, he said, Mike, I want you to look at your own children on the playground at lunch. What do they do? They sit for three hours, once they get up after sitting for three hours, they don't stretch, they don't do any dynamics, they do nothing. They don't hydrate and they sprint out to the playground for 30 meters and they come to a hard stop, no injury.
Then they spin around and do speed burst of 3 meters to 15 meters for half hour, no injury. They drop off the monkey bars, they jump up two feet on to the castle and they run around. So, they do plyometrics and speed bursts for 30 minutes and then go sit down. No injury. They are designed and hardwired for speed and explosion at this age. The body is not able to handle a lot of lactic acid build up. They are more designed for anaerobic activities, not aerobic activities. So, we focus on that and as they get a little older 12, 13, then we start opening the distances up.
Female Speaker: Coach Mike also stress that track and field training benefits all athletes.
Mike Cunliffe: Well, track and field goes across all sports and we coach a lot of the top football players in our area and I spend a lot of time on the phone with parents down in Oregon and different parts of the country. And I tell everybody track and field is the most healthy sport that you can do for your kids. Also it helps you in football, baseball and basketball.
There was a young man in the Seattle area and his father was a Division 1 football player, his son Taylor Mays went to O'Dea High School in Central Downtown. Now his son didn't play a lot of football when he was young. Now that's strange for a Division 1 football player. Then when he got to High School, he began to play football. But he focused Taylor on speed.
Taylor ran 107 in a 100 meters, as a senior at High School. He got recruited by Pete Carroll, he went to USC. He is the starting safety as a freshman, second fastest kid on the team, and he wants to go to the NFL early, he will.
Now, if Taylor was focusing on football but only ran 115 in High School, he would have never gone to USC. So, getting the scholarship and moving to the next level isn't dependent upon playing football when you're 8, 9, 10, it depends on what's your vertical. What's your 40 and 100 time, and what are your grades and can you handle the play book.
So, if that's the criteria and you're a football player, you better make that your core training focus.
Female Speaker: Coach Mike's core training focus sure paid off last month when his 25 team members took home 26 medals at the AAU Junior Olympics National Championships. We'll be sure to keep a lookout for those guys in 2012.