A Case in Point to Improve Long Jump at Sectionals

Let’s face it, hosting a track and field sectional is tough work. From weather to facilities to workers, there are a lot of moving parts to make it a success. But, more importantly than making it successful is giving the kids the best chance to advance to state. This blog is not to hate on anyone but rather to serve as a case study to hopefully help other sectionals give long jumpers the best chance to qualify for the state meet. There is no shame in hosting a sectional at a school other than yours. In fact, that is the best thing you can do if you don’t have the facilities.

We competed at the 3A Boys Sectional at Ottawa. I thought their coaching staff was very nice and they did a good job of managing the meet. They obviously didn’t read Tony Holler’s blog on how to host an amazing sectional (no live results?) but they had workers at every field event and they ran smoothly. As a jumps coach I always survey the facility. What I noticed right away were 3 things:

1. No long jump boards

2. We had a mild crosswind with a slight tail but because of the condition of the sand on one side, long jump could only go one direction

3. The runway slightly sloped uphill the direction we were going

Long Jump

You may not think it really matters but when you play a game of inches, everything needs to be taken into account. Can you long jump well at a facility like this? Yes. Is it probable? No. In fact out of 29 guys jumping, only 1 guy managed to set a season PR and that jumper happened to be my guy. He placed 3rd place with a jump of 21’1” and missed 2nd place and state by 3 inches. This article isn’t written because I’m bitter that he missed state, I’m not. I’m bitter that 28 guys jumped an average of 17.25 inches below their PR in weather that was perfectly acceptable to jump well in (78 degrees, muggy, light wind). I’m bitter that only 1 guy hit the qualifying standard and our sectional is only sending 2 guys to the state meet.

Let’s compare to some of the other 3A sectionals:

Ottawa 1 out of 29 PR

DGN 9 of 25 PR

SCN 14 of 23 PR

Proviso East 12 of 15 PR

Niles West 5 out of 28 PR

Buffalo Grove 8 out of 24 PR

Bloomington 5 out of 26 PR

Guilford 1 out of 21 PR

Lyons 8 out of 19 PR

Bloom 13 out of 30 PR 190

If you take out the Guilford (I wonder what their jump pits looked like?) and the Ottawa sectional, out of 190 jumpers in 3A (minus the York sectional which hasn’t uploaded results to athletic.net yet), 74 of them set PR’s at their sectionals. That’s 38.9% of all the long jumpers that jumped in 3A that set PR’s. At Ottawa, only 1 out of 29 set a PR. That is significant.

I’m 100% a proponent of giving kids the best chance to advance to state. If you have a sub-par jumps facility, I wouldn’t recommend raising your hand to host the sectional or I would strongly suggest hosting at a great facility. I would read Tony Holler’s blog on how to host an amazing sectional. I would consult other coaches as it’s always good to have a second opinion. Next year, we host the sectional and I can’t wait to put on an amazing sectional and if we don’t, I hope that everyone holds our coaching staff accountable. At the end of the day, we have a responsibility to make track and field as awesome as we can for the athletes. Please keep that in mind.

-Dr. Brian Damhoff

Boys Jumps Coach Plainfield North High School

Twitter @drbriandamhoff

4 thoughts on “A Case in Point to Improve Long Jump at Sectionals

  • Guilford long jumps are awful. I’ve seen better pits at some middle schools. And the wind was coming out of the east so the jumpers were getting a crosswind.

    • That’s very unfortunate for those jumpers but explains why Guilford and Ottawa had the 2 worst long jumping sectionals.

  • You make some great points. Just curious, what would previous year’s PR % look like for Sectionals? Would you say 38.9% is around average? If not, how much of that discrepancy goes towards weather or facility? It seems you could factor in several reasons why an athlete didn’t PR. Finals week, improper training demands, social life, poor diet, and the stress of qualifying itself can each be enough to produce a less than desired performance. In an ideal world, every athlete would have equal weather, facilities, competition, etc. In an ideal world all schools hosting Sectional meets would have everything you have described. With that not being the case, great athletes have to adjust to the conditions and put forth their best effort. Coaches have to adjust and refocus their athletes to perform their best in unequal, imperfect conditions. I agree with you in that some hosts can do a better job of improving their product. In my opinion, there will always be an unequal playing field no matter how things are set up. However, without discussing and debating these topics, nothing will change. Keep it up.

    • I can’t comment on an average as I only extracted the data from this years 3A sectionals. I could go back and extract more data but I think the point simply is that sub-par jump facilities should not be used at a sectional meet. At our sectional last year, 16 out of 28 PR’ed at Plainfield South which has an excellent jumps facility. You are correct that if conditions aren’t ideal, coaches need to adjust. I believe that a big part of why my guy was the only long jumper to PR at the meet was what I said to him as a coach. But, I agree, there’s no such thing as equal but there are definitely enough schools with worthy facilities to at least control one variable, the facility, that us as coaches can control. Thanks for your comment!

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