In this month’s coach’s corner we are going to focus on starts. In most sports, especially football, you must have good starts to achieve that quick, powerful first step. By making just a few changes within your mechanical set-up EVERYONE can improve their starts and get that first step you have always wanted. So let’s learn how to get your start on!
First, the start is a phase of acceleration that can be initiated from a stationary or partially moving position. From any position, the start can be defined as a production of force to overcome inertia or re-direct momentum and begin pure acceleration. Regardless of the starting position (two point or three point), there are general considerations that apply to the characteristics of a start. The three characteristics that we are going to focus on today our: alignment, activation, arrangement.
Alignment – No matter what position or what sport you play what is the number one thing every coach talks about? It’s alignment. At VSP our focus is to help teach athletes proper body alignment by achieving an optimal position to apply force in the proper direction and begin acceleration mechanics. Characteristics of all starting positions include placing the bodyweight on the balls of the feet, creating positive shin angles, and the setting the arms for proper synchronization.
A key factor in body alignment for any staggered start is deciding which foot will be placed forward. A simple method to determine the quick leg, or back leg, for individual athletes, is to ask them to cross their arms across their body. The arm closest to the body will be the same side as their quick leg. This easy exercise determines which side of the body neurologically moves first. Thus, if an athlete places their right arm against their body when crossing arms, the right foot should be placed back and the left foot placed forward in a start position.
Acceleration should be initiated by a “double-leg drive” method from all starts. An athlete that executes an explosive push off with both legs will produce a greater force than an athlete that uses only a single-leg push off. During a double-leg drive, the rear leg should produce a greater initial force, while the front leg produces force over a longer amount of time.
Properly executed starting mechanics control the first two steps while initiating pure acceleration body alignment and eliminating a false step. A false step is any initial movement of the fee that does not specifically involve the rear foot/leg driving forward. Examples of a false step may be placing the rear foot backwards before bringing it forward or lifting the front foot forward before brining the rear foot forward.
The initial step from a start should involve the rear leg driving, or “punching”, forward while dorsi-flexing the ankle. The front leg will support and continue producing force while the ankle, knee, and hip are fully extended (triple extension). Proper arm action (opposite arm forward, same-side arm backward) provides balance and added force production.
Remember, by making just a few changes within your mechanical set-up EVERYONE can improve their starts and get that first step you have always wanted. Please do not hesitate to contact VSP Sports Performance Director, Rob Weatherly with any questions or comments. Now it’s time to get your start on!