Aaron King (00:00):
Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the podcast. I'm Aaron King with Coach Bob King. Today, we're gonna talk about the Mini Hurdles, and we talked last time about the Agility Ladder and focused on it. But, we wanted to talk about the hurdles today. Really break down a few things about how we use them, where we use them, how they apply to different athletic levels, where they fit into a full speed and agility program. Because the one thing we want to keep reminding everyone is when we talk about something like Cone Drills, something like the Agility Ladder, those are pieces of a very large puzzle. So, we don't want people to get laser focused on saying, “If I do the ladder, I'll turn into this X athlete.” No, no, no, no. It is a tool in the tool belt. So, BK. So, we talked Agility Ladder last time. Tell me about the–what was the early inspiration motivation on the Mini Hurdles?
Coach King (00:51):
I think probably the best illustration of the Mini Hurdles is what I ask a lot of people. It's starting to fade now because it's out of people's memories, but always say, “Have you ever seen the Road Runner's feet?” They go, “Yeah, yeah.” I said, “No, not unless he's standing still because he is rarely standing still. The Road Runner feet, they're constantly turning–they're a blur.” That's what the Mini Hurdles, in my opinion, do for an athlete's feet. So, we are trying to create road runner feet. If you don't know, go get online and YouTube or whatever, Google, road runner, so you can see what we're trying to get out of the hurdles.
Aaron King (01:28):
All right. So, one thing I like to do is break down the difference between youth development and then pro and elite training. So, let's start with the younger athletes and tell me how the Mini hurdles fit into the program. How much let's just start with what Mini Hurdles can do for a youth athlete. Let's just start with that. Then, we can go into the other parts.
Coach King (01:50):
One word, lift. You know, the biggest thing that the young athletes have to do is pick up their feet. That's the word I always tell them is lift, lift, lift, you know, the heel, the knee. But, get your knee up, get your toe up, get your heel up. Very standard coaching mantra, but you've got to get your feet up at least six and a half inches to clear the hurdle. You know, that's not long, but you're talking about, we deal with kids nine and up. So, if you can get ‘em up then, you'll get 'em up forever. So, what we try to get 'em to do is to get that clearance and then get the contact time on the ground to a minimum and obviously that's speed. So, the Mini Hurdles are teaching from, you know, day one, to get some speed. You can't get to the next hurdle, even if it's only three feet, you can't get to it if you don't have any speed. You can't walk it. So, what you wanna do is learn how to run.
Aaron King (02:42):
All right. So, they're learning how to run. How many Mini Hurdles are we using and what's the spacing?
Coach King (02:47):
We're gonna do…the fundamental spacing is gonna be three feet. That's our basic starting point. Then, we have combinations in different distances, but we're gonna use, probably anywhere from eight to twelve. Now, that's actually a pretty big spread of hurdles. But you know, if I have some really rudimentary teaching to do, I'll even do six, and that's kind of about the end of it because you can't–the speed's not there. You don't get enough speed going to start developing the way I like it. So, I like to hold off taking it below eight. So, that tends to give the athlete a chance to get a little bit more momentum, and if they start picking up momentum, they can feel what speed feels like. So, that contact time gets quicker and they just get better. That way I can see more in their arm movement and their posture and those kind of things.
Aaron King (03:36):
How many days a week is a youth athlete doing the Mini Hurdles?
Coach King (03:39):
Well, we'll put it out there anywhere from two to three days a week easily in the summer program. I use that as the foundation, because, you know, in school and seasonal stuff gets interrupted. We do it whenever we can, but in the summer program, we'll put 'em out there as many as three days a week.
Okay, cool. Now, when you have an athlete, let's talk a little bit about when they mess up, you know, when they kick the hurdles. What's some of the coaching that you give these younger kids when they just blow it up?
Coach King (04:11):
Well, we have a saying, “Don't be careful and don't be careless.” If you're careful, you'll slow down and it's not worth it. You're the same speed as you were driving over. If you're careless, you're not working, you're not paying attention, you're not trying. So don't be careful and don't be careless. We mark the track. I have gone into places where if I'm a guest and I'm bringing gear there, I'll use masking tape to put down on a court or a field or a track to mark the spacing. That matters because on my home track, I have, you know, I have paint marks. I have our magic marker where I've got, you know, the gold standard is gold. Then, the white ones are the special ones. So, what we do is we tell the kids now, if you don't worry about making a mistake, because I could put 'em back real quick. I have a mark. I don't have to measure and we just keep going. So we try to diffuse that fear. Like if I mess up, I've ruined everything. You've only ruined everything when you're sloppy. When you're careless, then you've ruined it. So what we wanna do is just get you to go and, and not worry about messing up.
All right. Now, looking at a more elite athlete. How many times a week are you using the Mini Hurdles at that three foot spacing in the program and where does it fit into the program? As far as just that straight ahead stuff.
Coach King (05:30):
That's a very critical answer because we go once to twice a week. With the higher level athletes, they have mastered that so much, they have got to be challenged. So, once or twice a week and to help make that stick and work, we have done our modifications with it. So, first of all, we can change the spacing and what we used as a three foot basic spacing, we moved out to four feet on some more advanced stuff. Now, four feet's not a long stride, but you just find you do things and you think, okay, here's a good idea. We'll try this. Then you find out there's some nice little ancillary byproducts that go with this. So, with the four foot spacing, probably need ten to twelve hurdles. What you find is that there is what we call a Spatial Illusion now.
Coach King (06:18):
So we've come up with names with stuff. So, on the four foot spacing, you take off your stride–it's not stretched, but you know, you've got four feet. You gotta make a good takeoff. In the middle of the hurdle run, you feel like, okay, I'm running at my normal pattern and you're picking up speed. So, at the last, anywhere from two to four hurdles, it feels like the hurdles are shrinking because you're picking up speed, but the hurdles are not getting bigger in their spacing. It's a really cool sensation for the athletes because they had to learn to touch the ground and get off the amortization phase of time on the ground and getting off and going to the next stride has to be right on the money or they'll kick the hurdle and stumble and do whatever.
Aaron King (06:56):
Okay. So, now the Mini Hurdles are, they're just a gadget, a tool. So, we're talking a lot about this straight ahead thing. So, when I say how many days a week are we using the Mini Hurdles, that's really what I'm talking about, is that straight ahead linear stuff. There's the other side where the Mini Hurdles can be broken down zero to 10, like three hops and then some change of direction stuff. So, now breaking away from that, those 10 to 12, 13, however many Mini Hurdles into other types of use cases like acceleration and change direction. Can you tell me some use cases for it? I guess let's just start with zero to 10. That first step acceleration.
Coach King (07:38):
Well, that's our bread and butter right there. So, what we've done with the zero to 10 is–this try to imagine this. We have our hurdles laid out and what we will start doing, let's say we put out 10 hurdles, we run through and what we'll do is take off two. Now we have 10 hurdles run through and now the distance is shortened by six feet. Don't run with your eyes. If you look and run with your eyes, you'll see there's the end and so I don't speed up. Well, the hurdles are getting shorter, so you tend not to wanna speed up. So, we are trying to get you to do the hard thing. Quickness is speed in a short space. So we want you to be quick off the start and get those first two or three steps as fast as you can without letting your eyes deceive you that well, I'm only going to go the X number of yards.
Coach King (08:30):
So, I don't need to really speed up. That's the hard part. It is shorter. It is harder to go fast, short than it is long. So we'll do: run through 12 hurdles, take off two, run through 10, take off two. Now run through eight, take off one and keep going. So, you'll see their patterns start to change and how difficult it is for 'em to get up to speed, because their eyes are messing with them. Because they used to be able to see, well I got plenty of room to speed up or catch up. Now it's not happening. So we're teaching that first step acceleration to come off instinctively and not follow your eyes. We have a ton of little drills. We do like that for zero to 10. Another, my favorite, is the cable. We'll take five, well, we'll say seven or eight hurdles.
Coach King (09:19):
Probably one of my favorites is the cable assist through the hurdles where we'll take eight hurdles and we'll give 'em a gentle pull. I say gentle, just enough that it speeds 'em up and we'll take 'em through the hurdles five times with the cable. Then we'll take the cable off. As we always say, do the contrast. Now, go through the hurdles on your own. You'll see a remarked difference in how much faster they are and how quick they are. So, we are getting that road runner feet. Even a better one I like is our, we call it First Step, but we'll take three hurdles and we do two foot landing. We hop three hurdles. The key is over the third hurdle, land on two feet and explode into a run for five yards. Again, a short distance is very difficult, but that's the key to that start. So, we'll hop through three hurdles, five times with a seven yard sprint. Then we'll come back and we'll do a seven yard sprint on your own. That's to try to get off that mark, get that first step going; it's been very effective just for learning on that first step.
Aaron King (10:19):
What about other combinations? Any sort of running into the Mini Hurdles, the medicine ball throws–let's lay out a couple of examples of things and how many times a week you're mixing that in.
Coach King (10:34):
Yeah, going with the themes we talk about, the hurdles fit for me almost anywhere. So, if we go zero to 10, like I'd laid out for day one, day two is change-of-direction day. We may put the hurdles out and what we've done, you know, we brought back some old school and football used to lay out blocking dummies and, and we have a drill called weave and trash. So, that's where you would, you run up and back and forth, facing the same direction, in and out of the dummies and then side step to the beginning. We do that with the hurdles. We put 'em out at four foot spacing and we go forward, backward, forward, backward, and side step all eight of the hurdles that we've put out. What we also did is with the hurdle hops.
Coach King (11:18):
We'll take 12 hurdles and start lining 'em up in a zigzag pattern. What you'll do is you hop and your shoulders stay the same direction. So, you may have to go forward, forward, sideways, forward, diagonal, diagonal, forward, sideways, and you just learn to hop and a little bit of explosive training with the hurdles in multiple directions. Then there's one, we call Six Down. We have six hurdles and we just side step to the end and back, five and back, four and back, three and back. So, we get that quick, light touch, change of direction all built into the hurdles right there. So, you know, with eight to 10 hurdles, you can do quite a bit with change of direction to make sure that you're able to be quick because I highlight don't kick the hurdle. Keep your feet moving. Don't drag a foot. I kind of stay away from the medicine ball, because I want vision and everything to be clear. So, we will put something in their hands. It could be a hand weight. So we have little hand, heavy bean bags. We have some small two and three pound dumbbells. So we will anchor their arms and give them some resistance that way. Once again, when we do the contrast, you can see a marked improvement and a marked change in their arm speed.
Aaron King (12:27):
What about someone that says, okay, you're hopping around these hurdles. Why can't I just use a cone for that? I'm thinking about how close you can get to a hurdle and that kind of heal up and around that you can't get with a cone because of the angle, you know how it's like that triangle? So, what are some benefits of a Mini Hurdle? Not only benefits, because you talk about the paint sticks on the Agility Ladder. So, we want people to basically be able to do these drills, whether they have the equipment or not, but maybe some alternatives–benefits to having an actual Mini Hurdle, but then alternatives–replacing it with cones or something like that.
Coach King (13:02):
Well, you can do that. There's been some creative ideas out there in the beginning, like with, you know, the whole finance thing, we just didn't have any money. We could scrape together enough. My first 10 hurdles I made from the warehouse do-it-yourself store with PVC pipe and glue. So, I can make eight or 10 hurdles for the price of, what, a hurdle would cost back then. So, you know, the original hurdles were just PVC pipe and glue. So,it can be done. You have to just be creative, resourceful, and you know, say just get things done–innovator. So, you do that. Back to the paint stick story, I've seen people take two cones and line 'em up and put the paint stick across the tip of the cone.
Coach King (13:47):
There's your hurdle. Of course, you better be precise because it doesn't take much to knock that stick off. So, you do what you gotta do and I have no problem with what it looks like because it will get done. The definition of this is a barrier, you know, it's just like the hurdles in track and field or in the steeplechase. Those are called barriers. So, you have to clear the barrier and that's what the hurdles will do for you. Give you something to clear, heal up, get your foot round and down.
Aaron King (14:20):
All right. Any closing thoughts on the hurdles before I go on a totally different rabbit hole, unrelated. I'll save that for next time. Any closing thoughts on Mini Hurdles and maybe a takeaway just for the athletic development in total. Beause you just said the whole barrier thing which kind of sums it up to me. Any closing thoughts?
Coach King (14:40):
Well, there's no answer for speed except for more speed. If you can get that first step going, then you can make your opponent panic when he sees you take off. So, the hurdles, I would encourage every coach to put those into your program because I guarantee you will see improved athleticism outta your kids.
Aaron King (14:59):
All right. Well, if you want more information, go to KingSportsTraining.com. We have all sorts of speed and agility programs. We send out a newsletter, and then of course Coach Bob King is on the different social media platforms as @CoachBobKing on TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, all the places. You can find me TikTok as ShortSnap and I'm DeepSnap everywhere else, but I do a little bit of different stuff. KingSportsTraining.com is your resource. Thank you very much for joining us. We'll talk to you next time.