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What Do Track and Field Coaches Do?

A runner getting ready to compete in a track and field event.
Track and field coaches may track changes in an athlete's performance over the course of a season.
Track and field coaches help relay racers learn to quickly hand off the baton.
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  • Written By: Shelby Miller
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 17 March 2014
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Track and field coaches, much like football coaches, are responsible for coaching athletes who are categorized depending on the requirement of their event or position. Just as football players are separated into offensive line, defensive line, receiver, defensive back, kicking, and special teams positions, track and field athletes include distance runners, sprinters, hurdlers, shot-putters, jumpers, and pole-vaulters. Therefore, a team may utilize several track and field coaches to teach the athletes the separate skill sets required by their event. These coaches are responsible for conditioning their athletes for such skills as endurance or explosiveness and teaching them proper technique. They may also educate the athletes on mental focus and preparedness, proper nutrition, treating injuries such as shin splints, off-season conditioning, and other factors that lend themselves to preparedness and optimum performance.

As pre-season conditioning is an important step in readying athletes for an upcoming season, track and field coaches may implement a program designed to improve their fitness level. Distance runners may train with road runs or other forms of endurance exercise such as swimming or cycling to get their lungs in shape for the season. Similarly, sprinters may engage in activities designed to improve their explosiveness or even their overall stamina, such as strength training. Coaches may oversee this training firsthand or assign workouts to their athletes in the months leading into the track and field season.

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When the season begins, athletes may train simultaneously but be assigned to different track and field coaches according to their event or events. Distance runners will practice setting their pace for their event, making their gait more efficient. Runners who compete in relay races practice handing off a baton to their teammates, while sprinters will rehearse drills like leaving the starting blocks. Pole vaulters, high jumpers, long jumpers, and hurdlers may have their own coaches to train them on improving their technique. Similarly, shot-putters and discus-throwers will rehearse their event repeatedly in hopes of perfecting their form and achieving longer distances on their tosses.

In addition to working with the athletes during practice, track and field coaches are generally expected to be aware of and able to counsel athletes on sport-related nutrition, injuries, and other aspects of performance. Making sure the athletes are getting proper nutrition ensures they have the fuel they need to get through their race. Coaches may also advise athletes on handling injuries or refer them to other professionals like athletic trainers. Finally, coaches may serve as mentors to their athletes, whether in helping them to prepare mentally for competition or, in the case of student-athletes, improving their academic performance.

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Discuss this Article

SarahSon
Post 4

Both of my kids are in track, and their coaches seem to emphasis proper nutrition much more than my track coach did when I was in high school.

I do remember our coach encouraging us to get a good night of sleep before a meet and to drink plenty of water. That is about the extent of our coaching on nutrition and fitness.

The track and field coaches that my kids have emphasize that, but also talk more about the specific kinds of foods they need to eat. They encourage them to eat healthy fresh fruits and vegetables.

They also try to get them to limit the junk food and amount of soda they consume. I think all of these suggestions are great reminders for them.

If you have proper nutrition, you will be able to perform better, and have better stamina.

myharley
Post 3

I was a member of our high school track and field team for three years. Our coach could be pretty tough on us, but our team usually ended up placing first at the meets.

I ran on a couple of relay teams and remember how many times he made us practice handing off the baton. We had to do this over and over again until it felt like we could do this in our sleep.

When you are working on this during practice it doesn't seem that important. When you are getting ready to do this at a meet when the stakes are higher, you understand just how important this is.

A quick, smooth transition makes all the difference in your timing. If someone drops the baton, you not only lose a lot a precious time, but also feel very foolish and upset with yourself.

LisaLou
Post 2

One thing I always remember our track and field coach stressing to us was how to avoid shin splints.

These can be very painful and can keep you from running at a track meet if they are too severe.

It is easy to get shin splints if you don't do the proper stretching exercises or try to do too much too soon.

Our coach knew if we did things the way we wanted to, we would probably all be so sore and unable to compete.

I remember complaining about all the warm-up exercises we had to do. Now I realize just how important these were, but back then felt like they were a waste of time.

honeybees
Post 1

I grew up in a small town and attended a small high school. The track and field coaching jobs at our school were filled by teachers who were teaching other subjects at our school.

The girls coach was also our guidance counselor, and the boys coach was the history teacher. I think this is very common in small school districts like this.

Since I was on the girls track team, and our coach was the guidance counselor, he worked very well with us. What he may have lacked in track and field knowledge, he made up for in great coaching abilities.

He was the one who determined that I was better as a distance runner than a sprinter. I wanted to run in the races that were a shorter distance, but he moved me to the longer races.

I was surprised that I performed as well as I did because it was an area that I never had much interest in. Our relay team ended up going to the state tournament.

I probably would not have had this opportunity if I stayed with the shorter races.

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