Coach's Toolkit: March Madness Block Tournament

    A few seasons' back I was looking for a way to keep work interesting during the long build-up to our first meet. I decided that since I had a large group of novice athletes we could do a block start tournament over 30meters. We seed the tourney just like the NCAA basketball tournament. We use our standing 30s test from the first week of practice and what we have observed to set up our brackets. Each runner is paired off one on one with another athlete on the team. Winner moves on, and the loser moves into the consolation bracket. You can set these brackets up to limit the number of starts as needed. In addition, you can set up two dueling groups spread out over the eight lanes so you do not mix up athletes and the tourney itself doesn't take too long. Obviously, you want a winner, and you do not want the athlete to have too long of recoveries between contested starts.

    Make sure you have the bracket setup so each athlete can have three starts. Of course, all athletes should be spiked up and treat the tourney seriously as for a meet (another added bonus to this simulation). Coaches should film in order to limit arguments about winners, and for future analysis with the athletes. Awards can be anything the coach deems appropriate. However, we use an "Interval Card" as carrot for the athletes to commit the proper effort. An "Interval Card" is a certificate allowing the athlete to opt out of the interval at any practice at any time. (Further rules about these interval cards will be discussed in a later chapter on management).

    The kids get into this tournament. Arousal is through the roof, and the kids tend to be very exhausted the next day. I think it makes for a good workout and teaches the youngsters race like conditions before their first meet or full race distance time trial. If an athlete goes deep into the competition, the coach should let this tournament be the only thing, they do at practice that session. However, if the athlete is a veteran and gets bounced early from the contest, you can have an adjusted track session after. After the tournament, it is good to review the film. I believe with the contest fresh on their mind and a larger number of reps it makes for good mental training.