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This article was written by Carl Valle, USATF II. Click here for Part 1 of Key Performance Indicators for the Men’s 110m Hurdles
It was great to see a utopian environment with an elite athlete, internationally recognized program and coach, and some of the best technologies in the world. The Red Bull project with Lolo Jones (YouTube video, shown below) showed us all what can be done when great minds come together. I wrote an article last August about Key Performance Indicators in the 110m hurdles, and it looks like some of the same metrics I suggested last year are finally brought to life.
Now the question is can we do something similar that is within reasonable budgets? Not everyone can afford Vicon Motion Capture as well as entire tracks of Microgait hardware, so what can the average college or HS coach do on a budget?
I have blogged about different technologies that we can afford, such as many inexpensive solutions like open source software and the simple use of a smart phone. (See articles on Kinovea Alternative Dartfish, LongoMatch and SportsTracker and the sprintStart Reaction Timer iPhone App.)
Recently, the timing system from Freelap USA showed one of the best videos on capturing hurdle splits that is affordable and immediate.
Another simple solution is to use tennis balls cut in half to mark take off and landing distances, ensuring that athletes are staying within norms and that the athlete is consistent, the hallmark quality of a hurdler. With or without video is a great audit to the workout and the athlete’s execution.
One obvious need is making video useful in a real practice environment. Some of the best analysis and reports ever done by sport science are the studies by Milan Coh in Slovenia. The most obvious problem is that working with groups giving feedback and reviewing film is hardly practical, and viewing oneself as an athlete is like an outer body experience, enlightening but very difficult to change unless one has a master coach.
Nearly everyone can see the difference between the world class and the lesser athletes on video, especially in slow motion, but making a human body change technically with a few milliseconds to work with is a challenge. It’s not what you know, it’s what you are able to transform with your athletes.
5 Simple Tools that can Make a Big Difference
Here are 5 simple tools that can make a big difference when trying to evaluate practice sessions. Clearly Freelap Timing is the backbone to practices and the tiny transmitters don’t consume the track and can be used daily, even if the weather is raining a bit. I have used Freelap outdoors in the heavy rain for conditioning with team sports, but I prefer not to do all out speed work in a downpour.
A Good Tripod (or Gorilla Pod) – is vital. I was cheap in the past but now a good tripod is something that should be fought over with teams because good video is about being panned smoothly and level. Many times angle tool on software are just not valid because the camera was not level. You can use smartphones now that HD is available, and gorilla pod options are great for iPod touches.
Apple TV and HDMI Flat Screen- Tablet and smartphone screens are now more popular, and strangely they are used to view live or freshly taped performances for on the field. When viewing bodies in motion, think sky not microscope. The big picture is often easier to see and viewing later is a better mindset, rather than forcing the athlete to do too much in practice. Football players and basketball players look at film, and that is usually done as homework.
3-10m of Optojump Track- I believe the most valuable part of optojump is the ability to evaluate acceleration performance such as contact time, air time, and other variables like step length. Optosource, a distributor in the US of Microgate and other solutions, shared invaluable ways to make this technology finally team friendly, explained in a great webinar on their website at optosource.us.
Kinovea – I prefer Dartfish over mobile solutoinsbecause iPad or iPad apps become a workflow disaster if one is really trying to solve problems. Kinovea is opensource and free to those with zero budget. You can place videos into Dropbox and narrate them with home movie software that is good enough for teaching.
Kinesio Tape and Reflective Dots- Kinesio Tape may not be doing the magic people are claiming with injuries, but athletes like wearing it. A few pieces act as a biomechanical skeleton on black spandex or skin for live or easy review. REI provides reflective dots for about 6 dollars that is very handy for 2D analysis. Many small changes in one dimension will rectify in other areas, making a simple cue a 3D solution if you have multiple cameras.
The strength of the above equipment is that some of it is inexpensive and all of it works together or in isolation. Nothing beats a good eye, the ability to communicate, and all of the skills the coaching art can provide. Having a few tools that can help study the development of the hurdler can make a big difference.