According to the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS), track and field continues to be one of the largest sports in high school across the nation. It can be assumed too, that with studies coming out delving into the effects of football and soccer on youth athletes (due to the probability of head trauma and concussion) the allure to track and field will only grow.
Most track and field athletes compete outdoors; there's typically everything a track athlete needs in an outdoor stadium. Yet, there is an indoor season sanctioned by both the NFHS and the US Track and Field Association (USATF). Why? Should high school athletes (and beyond) compete in indoor track and field? In short, absolutely. Here are a few reasons why.
Practice Makes Perfect
Several athletic and labor studies show that 'intentional practice', the idea of focusing on specific areas to improve, is much more efficient than creating an atmosphere of repetition.
Indoor track allows athletes to practice for a reason--whether it is competing for a time, trying to beat an teammate or another team, or a chance to make practice mean something.
I practiced with athletes who competed during indoor, and those who didn't compete during indoor. Though my experience is anecdotal, I saw and felt much more improvement in the outdoor season with the athletes whom competed indoor versus those whom just practiced.
Correct What's Wrong
When athletes compete, they act and run much differently than preparing and running for practice. It's true. As much as coaches want to simulate the meet-day environment, athletes will surprise you with something you didn't prepare for, or knew that the athlete would do. Indoor track competition allows coaches to fix issues before they become major problems, especially to those athletes looking to be recruited. An athlete can practice perfectly, but what happens if they revert to bad habits in competition? What if an athlete counts their steps perfectly in practice, but loses/gains distance in competition? Using indoor track as an platform to predict how the athlete will react to competition is crucial to meet preparation in outdoor.
See the Competition Before it Matters
Let's say you have a sprinter who didn't take the off-season that seriously. What will make them jump their training into high gear? Seeing how they respond to other athletes during indoor season. Now, if your athlete is heads and shoulders away from everyone, then that means, unless the athlete is trying to make a specific time, you can take their indoor season pretty easy.
If the athlete struggles against competition, or is a ways away from where they need to be for recruiting, you can use the competition to fuel the fire.
I certainly did; I used indoor to prepare several of my high school athletes to hit times they needed to hit, and several did. Thankfully, I have several athletes running for colleges today. The point is that I made sure I knew where my athletes stood amidst competition before outdoor track started. Seeing how they lined up and finished gave me coaching emphases for the spring season.
Most Importantly--It's Fun!
I do love outdoor track, but, if the group is right, I honestly believe that indoor track is the best season to run and compete. Though there are fewer events in indoor track, the atmosphere that I have been fortunate to be a part of have been absolutely electric. There are very few events more fun in indoor than the sprints, the 4x200m, and the 4x400 relay. I live for those events in indoor track.
I give my best to those young boys and girls competing this season! If you need help, let me know!
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