This is Part 12 of the weekly “Friday Five” series where I ask 5 tough questions to world class elite coaches. To recap:
- Jumps coach Boo Schexnayder
- Dr. Mike Stone of the USOC and NBA
- Performance specialist Henk Kraaijenhof
- USA’s Dan Pfaff, now with UKA
- Pierre-Jean Vazel of the French National Team
- USATF Chair for Men’s & Women’s High Jump Dave Kerin
- Michigan State University’s Randy Gillon
- Harvard/UTEP/Portland State/Syracuse’s Kebba Tolbert
- Performance consultant and EU Basketball S&C coach Jose Fernandez
- KIHU Biomechanist Tapani Keränen (The Research Institute for Olympic Sports in Finland)
- Stockholm’s Hammarby soccer club physical preparation coach Mladen Jovanovic
Dave Hegland is the Assistant Coach at Syracuse University. He is a former hurdler and has transformed his expertise to the hurdles as well as sprints.
In the hurdles, he coached Jarret Eaton (2012 NCAA 60mH winner) and Ramon Sosa (2008 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships in the 60m and 110m hurdles).
In the sprints, he coaches CANADIAN Michael LeBlanc (100m 4th place finish at the 2007 NCAA Outdoor Championship).
Friday Five is sponsored by Freelap Track and Field, a leader in electronic timing.
Interview with Dave Hegland
Q1 – SpeedEndurance.com: As a former athlete and high hurdler, could you share the development of your coaching education?
Dave Hegland: My dad was a high school hurdles coach and former hurdler, so I grew up around track and field, following him to meets and practices. I quickly developed a love for the sport and the high hurdles in particular. He has a great feel for observing and communicating the event, and shaped the way I think about hurdling. I remember paging through his copy of Terry Crawford’s Winning Track and Field Drills for Women as a young kid, and have read everything I could find on the sport since.
I read McFarlane’s The Science of Sprinting and Hurdling and Ross’ The Hurdler’s Bible while in high school, and still refer to them often. I was lucky to enter college, armed with a high speed internet connection, about the time people like Mel Siff, Kebba Tolbert, Charlie Francis, Mike Young, Carl Valle, etc. began a prolific sharing of information on sites like the Supertraining listserve, Kebba’s Speed/Power group, Elitetrack.com, and CharlieFrancis.com. So many great coaches provided so much invaluable information for free on those sites, which has continued with projects like the Canadian Athletics Coaching Centre and their endless interviews and videos with elite coaches. Sifting through information available online has provided a previously very expensive and time consuming look into the thought processes of successful coaches.
So these coaches – many of whom I’ve never met – have been willing to talk, lecture, and write about their own experiences, and have been critical in my understanding of biomechanics, training theory, etc. I believe this open sharing and discussion has greatly accelerated coaches’ education for people of my generation. This is a great time to be a young coach in our sport.
Beyond that, I am very indebted to Andy Roberts who first hired me at Syracuse. Coach Roberts is a tremendous technician and taught me a great deal about the biomechanics of sprinting and hurdling, lessons which I still use on a daily basis.
Q2 – SpeedEndurance.com: The Lolo Jones RedBull “video analysis” video went viral. What are your thoughts on using video analysis with athletes and what elements do you look for when doing practice and competition review?
Dave Hegland: Like a lot of coaches, we film all competitions and most hurdle training sessions, and import all of those clips to Dartfish. We primarily use Dartfish to reinforce and evaluate key positions that we’ve been addressing in training. Related to the hurdle clearance itself, those very basic markers generally are:
- Landing of the takeoff (trail) foot into the takeoff step before the hurdle. We want a minimal casting of the shin at this moment, with beginners tending to cast out excessively (resulting in a braking action), while advanced hurdlers land with a nearly vertical shin.
- Lead arm throughout the hurdle clearance. We look for an aggressive, nonstop action, with minimal lateral deviation on the way up into the hurdle and a lead hand that cuts below the trail leg knee on the way back.
- Trail knee upon landing. We want the thigh of the trail leg to be pointed straight ahead, down the track when the lead leg lands past the hurdle. This often takes care of itself if the two markers above are achieved, but is crucial in allowing the athlete to run aggressively off the hurdle.
Basically, I think hurdling is a complex action but it’s our job to simplify it, rather than vice versa. This is why we try to pick a few key things that are common to the world’s best athletes, that will have the most profound effect on the run as a whole, and spend our time focusing on those aspects of technique. So I also spend a great deal of time comparing our athletes’ hurdling with that of world class performers using Dartfish’s side-by-side feature. Again, coaches today benefit immensely from the countless race clips, with multiple camera angles, available online that can be imported to Dartfish. It’s easy to show an athlete the commonalities amongst the world’s best hurdlers. It’s very beneficial for an athlete to see his lead arm compared to Liu Xiang’s, for example, or his trail leg compared to that of Dayron Robles to hammer home a technical point. These film sessions tend to be not only instructive but also motivating, for the athletes and coach alike.
Aside from these positional markers, we previously used Dartfish’s chronometer function to time hurdle touchdowns in training and races, though Freelap has assumed that role in training (more on that below).