It is Monday. After a recommendation from a few people, I now coach track at Warren Mott High School and today is the first day of practice.

While driving to school I have images of Bishop Foley practices from three years back going through my head; the short Pose introduction, warmup routine, partner falling drills, short/intense workouts, the hill. I have been doing CrossFit/Phys. Ed. work with Mott for a few years now, so I know most of the kids and I have a decent idea of what to expect. There will probably be more numbers here than at Foley, but I’ve been told I’m only coaching sprinters so that should make things much easier. Still, planning ahead rarely works for me. Usually I plan, I get there, all hell breaks loose.

My mantra has always been, “Coach what you see.” So at Foley, Brian and I rarely planned things out in advance. We would have a general idea of what we wanted to accomplish, see how the kids looked that day, then adjust accordingly. No reason to think today would require anything different.

Those were my famous last words before I walked into a gym packed with 105 kids bouncing off the walls and having dunk contests with spare shoes. All right… these can’t all be sprinters. Then coach Dias called everyone to the baseline, laid out a few rules, then turned to me and said, “You ready?”

“Uhh… Aight.”

“So listen,” he started back at the crowd of runners, “we are doing something new this year that we haven’t done before.” Coach talked for a second about running technique and the Pose method, then he did the one thing I was hoping he wouldn’t. “We have brought in a running technique expert,” he said to a gang of people who can run faster than me. “Coach Chris… they’re all yours!”

“All of them?”


The most runners I can recall taking through Pose drills at one time is around 20 – and that was in my gym’s setting where almost everyone knew what they were doing. None of these kids had the slightest idea about Pose, and they were hyper from being cooped up in school the entire day – as any high schoolers would be. Any desire to talk flew out the door and I figured it would be best to get them moving in something resembling order. Demonstrate and replicate. The less words the better.

First was defining basic Pose (springiness position) and bouncing to develop bodyweight perception of being on the forefoot compared to toes (high heels) or heels. Then we incorporated Pony, Change of Support, Single-leg hop, and butt-kicker in with the bouncing to help timing. After that, we spread across the gym and moved forward and backwards to incorporate a fall. Finally, we lined up everyone on the baseline in rows and did the drills forward to the foul line then immediately into a run. It went okay the first day and I usually start with a variation of that each day I am there.

Since I have to be back to my gym to coach the after school CrossFit session, I send the kids outside to Shannon Marchant (one of our Champions Club athletes who just finished running at U of D Mercy) after I finish our routine where she extends on some technique and takes them through a workout. Here are a few adjustments we have made so far – which is not to say they are necessarily the most ideal, but rather the best we can do at this time given our experience coaching a group of this size.

Knock out distance peeps early. In an attempt to divide and conquer, I asked the head distance coach if he could get his runners to practice fifteen minutes early so I could work with them separately. He had no problem with it and I have been doing that since the second week. There are only (only!) about 25 distance runners, so I can do more individual drills and demonstrations with them. I’ve still only been glossing over the stuff, but I get to do a few things I wouldn’t be able to do with the full group. After that, I take the horde of sprinters through whatever their attention span allows for that day, and then pass them outside to Shannon for the workout.

No falling. Falling drills, at least the ones that I am aware of, require either another person, or a wall of sorts. While there is no shortage of either at our disposal, the {goofball : serious-runner} ratio usually makes falling drills pointless. To start off, everyone is afraid of falling (to be expected). But in a big group, they seems to get self-conscious when they don’t feel like they’re doing it right – with a partner or against a wall. Either that, or they think it’s stupid; depends on the day. Then the laughing and chatter starts and is nearly impossible to stop (kinda like how falling should be). So I try to avoid that unless the group is right.

You want me to run how long? At this point, about 85 percent of our workouts have been time priority as opposed to task priority. Shannon made this adjustment after the second practice. It was a simple workout – all-out 400, 300, 200, 100 with full rest – but none of the sprinters went hard for the 400 or 300. And with low-volume workouts, the intensity has to be there or else there’s no point. So instead of the aforementioned workout, we would say, “Sprint for 50 seconds, sprint for 35 seconds, sprint for 20 seconds, sprint for 10 seconds.” It sounds much easier, so it tricks them at first. But once they realize what’s going on, they understand that it doesn’t matter how much ground they cover as long as they go hard for that time frame. They seem to like that challenge more.

“Yerr outta here!” As the season has gone on, the attendance numbers have slowly been dropping – which is interesting because the exact same thing happened while coaching at Foley. If I didn’t know any better, I would think it’s something about my demanding coaching style. Weird. But I actually like this because that means I can finally do more drills with the people who actually care. Since the knuckleheads are slowly becoming the minority, I have no problem throwing them out when they are being distracting. My philosophy is this: if you don’t agree with the drills, no problem. They look weird at first, I know. But even doing them the wrong way can serve as a good warmup. And if you still can’t stomach them, just chill on the side until we start the workout. I don’t blame them either.

Track is just different, man; lots of downtime, more laid-back, boys and girls on the same team, weird drills. I feel where they’re coming from. In high school I used to just lay on the high jump mat all practice and still won most of my races. If you don’t bother the people that care, I can live with it. The cool thing is I can throw a kid out of practice, and we can come back the next day and talk about Kobe’s historic curtain call or the NFL draft like nothing happened. The kids are really cool.

Mobility. Last time I coached track I was not up on as much of the mobility stuff that I am now. Thanks to Kelly Starrett sharing his brain with the world, we’ve been able to fix a good amount of the problems we’ve come across. The thing we hear about most is calves. Cramping, tight, twitching, exploding, you name it. Luckily for us, Coach T – head strength coach and P.E. teacher at the school – has more mobility tools than any school with a budget should be allowed to have, so he kindly lets me use them for the team when we need a recovery day. Lately, that’s been about once per week. It will probably vary once the meet schedule gets more consistent.

Check up, little fella! Slowly but surely the majority of the kids are really getting into the technique by now. It is a difficult transition, but it’s going well. Oddly enough, it wasn’t the actual running that got their attention. It was basketball.

Over spring break, I would get to practice about a half hour early to shoot around in the empty gym. When the kids started rolling in, a few of them naturally wanted to shoot with me. There are few things in this world more enjoyable than playful trash-talking, and since the kids seemed to be on the same page, things often escalated into spontaneous one-on-one games. I’m not an All-American, but I can play a little bit, and none of them could keep up – much to the delight of everyone watching. So that gives me a little credibility. Plus now any time someone isn’t listening, I just call out their lack of basketball game in front of everyone and they kind of squirm out of sight. But more importantly, I noticed I seem to have everyone’s attention more when I am talking.

kobe vs child

So the season is about halfway done – maybe a little more. And like I said, I definitely don’t think those bullet points are the best coaching methods, they’re just what I have to use now to compensate for my lack of experience coaching a large group of knuckleheads. But for real though, it’s been better than I expected. Coach Mark, Coach Michelle, and Coach Dias are all really cool; they are totally in to the Pose concept and they let Shannon and I do our thing. The kids are coming along, too. Lately, we have been able to take a few individuals aside and do things like video analysis, falling drills (yay!), and other drills that require a coach’s eye or feel. Rumor has it the Hill will be making an appearance as well, but that cannot be confirmed.

My main takeaway so far is that the Champions Club kids spoil me. I run small sessions and can nitpick every detail I want. In this setting bad form is going to happen. It still annoys me, as it should any coach, but I can accept that there will be a longer time frame for improvement. And it definitely gives me an appreciation for people like Coach T, who manages to teach good deadlift and push-up form in a class of 50 kids. Either way, this is Pose on a larger scale, for Shannon and me at least. It’s an experiment, as with everything else I have done. I’ll check back in after the season.

About three weeks ago, Steph Curry unloaded a comically historical shooting display against Oklahoma City that ended in a nuclear launch from half court to win the game. My question is: did those 53 minutes of game-action make him a better basketball player? Or was it just a reflection of his recent practice habits? Or maybe both?

Before I ever knew about CrossFit, I played sports. In fact, it was in that playing of sports that motivated me to start CrossFit in the first place. So naturally my approach to CrossFit is similar to how I approached basketball, football, or track.

You don’t play a football game every single day. You would die. Instead you have practices at about a 5:1 ratio of games. At those practices you emphasize specific performance points that you might need for the game. There is little to no attention paid to passing yards, tackles, or even points scored because the habits developed in this frame are more important than measurable outcome they produce. When the game comes, the outcome typically reflects the habits you practice (unless you are Michigan’s punt team.) This is why I find it so irritating when I see coaches yelling at their players during a game about something they messed up, as if they’re going to correct it in front of a crowd of people and a scoreboard. That needs to be addressed in the controlled environment of practice.

Kelly Starrett has helped me come to realize that the weight room is practice. We exaggerate positions and conditioning demands that we might find in sport or real life so that when we do encounter them, we are more likely to succeed. CrossFit, in specific, serves as one of the world’s best diagnostic tools for movement dysfunction. It exposes us to so many domains of training that our weaknesses have no place to hide. It is the coach’s job to recognize them when they come to light and fix them; the gains an athlete makes in strength, coordination, conditioning, power, etc. all come as a byproduct.

The Champions Club has always been comprised of predominantly teenagers. In specific, teenagers who are not doing CrossFit as a sport, itself, but using it to help them in other sports. As I wrote about before, we have seen the training lead to a lot of success. But, again, we have come to view our athletes’ sports performance as a byproduct of their training, not their goal necessarily. After all: what’s the best way to improve shooting a basketball? Uh… practice shooting a basketball. One hundred push presses is not an equal substitution for one hundred pull-up jumpers.

Teaching develops perception, and perception allows you to be your own coach.

I evaluate my coaching based on how well our kids (or parents, for that matter) move without being coached. I realized that we weren’t doing the kids any good if they showed perfect movement in the gym, but were clueless when they worked out by themselves at college or with their football  team. If they need me there watching to have good form, then I have failed. So lately, we have been a little bit vaguer with our directions. One of our young coaches, Nicole Murley, put it best in an article last year: “Cues foster dependence. Teaching develops perception, and perception allows you to be your own coach.” This is where the Pose Concept has really helped us out.

All athletic movement is comprised of both strength and skill. Strength is the capacity to maintain a stable position, and skill involves the coordination of doing it correctly and is heavily dependent on perception. As I mentioned before, I believe the Pose Method for running is the best way to develop bodyweight perception. The effortless feeling in running should be able to be replicated in kipping pull- ups, cleans, and rope climbs. In fact, we often do Pose drills as a primer for Olympic lifts. Same skill (unweighing), just different poses.

In another attempt to help our athletes move well without coaching, we have simplified our teaching. Instead of having a million different exercises and rules, we have come to recognize a few underlying movements and standards that encapsulate everything we do in the weight room. In short, there are three movements that every kid in the Champions Club needs to perform:

  1. Push-up
  2. Jump/Land
  3. Run

That’s it. If you can do those three things, then you have a foundation for snatches, back squats, handstands, spiking a volleyball, throwing a baseball, or tackling a running back.

An overriding theme for those movements are three rules that must be obeyed at all times; regardless of what you are doing:

  1. Midline stability – No change in spine while moving
  2. Loading order – Prime movers (hip/shoulder) must move first
  3. Laws of Torque – Flexion = external rotation; Extension = internal rotation

In a weird way, it’s almost like the coach is working against the athlete. The athlete’s job is to obey the rules at all costs. The coach’s job is to make the athlete break them, then note where the breakdown occurs so it can be fixed. The coach can use things like speed, load, volume, change in orientation, fatigue, and range of motion to challenge a movement pattern, while the athlete can use perception, skill, blocking movement, and mobility drills to help their cause.

Coach Sinagoga working with one of his athletes. (Photo credit: Chris Sinagoga)

We kind of formalized this mindset about a year and a half ago, and it has drastically helped me when dealing with all of our teens. My biggest coaching fear used to be having an athlete fail right in front of me while I was coaching them. Or even worse: if they trained hard and did well in the gym, then performed poorly in their sport. But now seeing that it is actually my job to make them mess up helps me understand where they fall in the progression of that movement continuum. And if their sports are not going as planned, then it just exposes something that needs be addressed in the gym going forward.

The biggest challenge, for me at least, is adjusting to the different level of athlete. Beginner athletes tend to be completely dependent on a coach, and therefore the relationship works perfectly. With advanced athletes, the relationship is interdependent. Matt Fecht, who finished 50th at the recent U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, trains with us and we both bounce ideas off each other. Intermediate athletes, on the other hand, tend to be the most challenging because they are at that stage that awkward stage. Sometimes they feel too much time is spent on the basics they have already worked on ad nauseam, and sometimes I am too quick to label them “advanced.” And usually our sessions will be filled with variations of all three athlete types. Needless to say there are many entertaining days out here in Madison Heights.

Pairing the idea of working out with the emotion of fun is what ultimately leads to a lifetime of fitness

Finally, I think it is important for the kids to have fun. As the Jeff and Mikki Martin have always stressed, pairing the idea of working out with the emotion of fun is what ultimately leads to a lifetime of fitness. So we definitely do some weird stuff. We have theme workouts during the Summer when all the College Kids are back and on holidays. Some of the favorites are 80’s, Disney, Jurassic Park, and Shark Week (which has recently been blended with our Hawaiian Workout). As for most of the daily workouts, we have a warmup similar to the traditional CrossFit warmup (if anyone actually remembers that from the old days), then mobility work, and finally the workout of the day. I am usually lenient on the talking and messing around during warmup and mobility. Then when the time comes, they flip the switch and get their mind right for the workout. Sometimes the workout doesn’t go as well as planned, and then I get pissed and make an adjustment the next day. In the end, we let the movement quality dictate everything. It they are moving well, we let it roll. If not, we adjust.

We let the movement quality dictate everything

The great thing about coaching teens is that, in most cases, there is a wide margin for error. We experiment on them all the time because they can recover quickly if we mess up. In addition, their involvement in sports gives me a lot of feedback that I would not get otherwise. The habits they develop in the gym show up on the field for me, and the hundreds – and sometimes thousands – of spectators to see. There’s nothing like it.

Coaching track in high school might be the simplest job in all of sports – despite what “track people” make it out to be. There are no plays. There are no defenders standing in your lane. There are no pre-snap reads. There are no curveballs. And there is no contact.

Track is literally just Pose, Fall, Pull. Then practice at your race-speed to get a desired stimulus; unless you need to slow it down to focus on one particular area of the Pose, Fall, Pull continuum. And if possible, do CrossFit to support the foundation.

With this formula, Brian Hassler and I conducted an experiment over the course of four seasons: can lacrosse, softball, and CrossFit athletes be molded into good track runners? It soon became our job to find the best athletes in the school from other sports and bribe the hell out of them to run for us. We talked to parents, coaches, teachers, and students offering a Nike track bag, spikes, and three months of sunshine and daisies for anyone good who wanted to come out. This, as it turned out, was a horrible idea. Not only did the best athletes decline, but the ones who ended up joining carried a lovely aura of entitlement with them. Ugh, it’s not their fault though; I was desperate.

However there was another crowd we went after. And these kids were special. They were known around school as the Champions Club.

During our first season coaching in the spring of 2010, Brian and I had been asked by a few random students to run a CrossFit program during the summer. They saw us hitting WODs at school, started tagging along, and wanted to continue. After sending out some feelers to athletes from a few different sports, we wound up with a group of 22 kids that began training with us on June 14, 2010. Since we were not affiliated at the time, Brian took to calling our group the Champions Club. For nine months we had athletes coming to us anywhere from 2-6 days per week doing deadlifts, pull-ups, handstand push-ups, cleans, and box jumps. But Brian and I always kept our eyes open for standouts in the running workouts like “Kelly,” “Helen,” and “Michael.” Luckily, we found some. Among others, Renee Shelton, Nicole Murley, Sydni Golfin, Jake Cory, and Abby Lama all showed an ability to run reasonably well. By the time March rolled around we managed to convince all of them to run track for us. (Funny story about Renee: on the first day of spring sports she actually left her house thinking she was going to Soccer practice only to have Abby and her friend kidnap her and drag her to track.)

The end result: 10 state qualifiers.

This was the black box model at its finest. We had two control groups on our team – runners who did CrossFit and those who didn’t. The end result: 10 state qualifiers in 2011. Nine of them did CrossFit. In 2012 we had 11 runners qualify; 10 of which did CrossFit. In both cases, the non-CrossFit athletes were on relay teams with 3 other CrossFitters. I’m not saying CrossFit was the reason for the success, but it sure didn’t hurt. It gave the athletes perfect conditioning for the 200m dash through the 1-mile run and it provided a foundation of strength to support the pounding on the school’s asphalt track.

But what impressed me the most about these kids was none of them even wanted to run track in the first place; they were all doing CrossFit to help them at other sports. Yet they routinely beat local competition that considered track their primary sport, and managed to hold their own on a regional and sometimes state level. And nobody personified this model more than Emma Wonsil.

Emma Wonsil (Vid credit: Chris Sinagoga)

Emma is one of the original Summer 2010 kids still with us today. From 2010-2013 she was the best CrossFitter in our ranks. She played volleyball, basketball, and softball before adding track to her routine in 2011. As a sophomore she won regional championships in the individual 400m dash and the 4×1 relay, as well as a 2nd place 4×4 team. The next year, she repeated as 400m champion and also added the 4×4 relay to the 1st place list, while her 4×1 relay team took 2nd. Up to that point her success was more due to her hard work ethic than a technical prowess in Pose. This was about to change.

I thought I knew Pose because I watched video clips. But in September 2011, Brian and I attended a CrossFit Running seminar with Dr. Romanov, Severin, and Peter in Akron, OH. Watching the doctor operate in person was humbling to say the least, but I took a new understanding back to the Champions Club where I worked with Nicole Murley, who joined the Cross Country team during her swim season, and eventually saw her qualify for states. But there still seemed to be a disconnect with running and the rest of the movements in CrossFit – at least from a teaching perspective. It wasn’t until I began to study Kelly Starrett and Carl Paoli that I could make connections between the shapes in the gym and on the track. Carl showed me that things like kipping pull-ups, burpees, and pistols can exaggerate important shapes runners will go through, while Kelly gave me a method to optimize our position. Then the final piece of the puzzle was revealed to me on October 15, 2012 in the form of Dr. Romanov’s CFJ video on unweighing. It was a tease, but it gave me a springboard to connect the missing piece: body weight perception. Now the thing is, all of this knowledge is worthless without a subject to test it on. Thank God I had Emma.

I probably watched that video 15 times in the span of three months; each time I would catch something new.

I probably watched that video 15 times in the span of three months; each time I would catch something new and relay it to Emma to see if it made sense. Emma, who was a Salutatorian on top of all the sports, did not have a class during her last hour of the school day. So instead of sticking around the school, she drove around the corner to our gym (now CrossFit-affiliated) for one-on-one sessions every day from January-May. It was then I began to officially move away from the old method for teaching Olympic lifts (triple extension, pull under, etc.) to the new way we simply and uncreatively called “unweighing.” The method was simple: define key poses based on the movement (push jerk vs. clean, or hang vs. ground), drill the unweighing movement pattern, then change support when all of the body weight is removed.

It was her falling technique from the blocks that gave her an advantage.

On top of that, we also experimented with a lot of the new mobility stuff Kelly was coming out with, especially Voodoo bands on the hamstrings, front splits and shoulder internal rotation. As for the workouts: we kept with as we always have, only making sure to modify with in-season variations of the workouts. Emma, also an all-state softball player, was quickly becoming known more for her work on the track than the diamond. At Regionals, she concluded her 3-peat as 400m champion with a personal best time of 101.5. More impressive, however, was her sprinting. We used the 100m dash as a warmup for the 400, but she still ended up making it to the finals and ran a 13.08 – only .09 seconds off a state-qualifying time. It was her falling technique from the blocks that gave her an advantage; had I recognized this earlier, she could have been spared from the torture that came with every 400m run. Either way, it was clear that the extra connections we made to running were paying off.

Running is the most technically demanding skill in CrossFit.

Running is the most technically demanding skill in CrossFit. It requires the stable midline position, shoulder, hip, and foot mechanics covered by all other movements. However it includes a combination of challenges not found in any other movement. It adds load (3x – 6x body weight), removes connection (unilateral loading and airborne), challenges range of motion (shoulder/hip flexion and end-range extension, full ankle dorsiflexion), constantly changes orientation, and moves the fastest speed – which leads to the most extreme movement factor of all: volume. There are approx. 340 steps in a 400 meter run. That means 170 per foot. Imagine doing 340 cleans in a workout (just for the first round). For this reason, it is nearly impossible to address positional strength when teaching running. Instead, we focus on developing the most important skill an athlete can possess: perception. In specific, the Pose method for running is the most universal and applicable way to teach body weight perception.

Because so much perception is required to maintain Pose throughout all of the reps, we don’t talk about feet-straight or belly-tight. Instead, we rely on using other exercises in CrossFit (box jumps, pistols, kipping pull-ups, and handstands) as skill-transfer movements to help the positions in running. Carl Paoli helped us see that if you do them to fit your purpose in the gym, the principles will eventually translate to the track. In addition, we can also use some movements to help develop body weight perception. Take a rope climb for instance. If our purpose for doing it was to simply build upper-body strength, the kids would just grab on and climb for their lives. But if we want to teach body weight perception, we use the traditional Spanish-wrap, only in Pose language. Start with body weight on your feet and hands. Bring your hips to the rope and do a sit-up. When you feel your body weight leave the hands, release them and reach higher up the rope. Working with gravity has a much different feel than working against gravity, and is something that needs to be continually reinforced.

In 2010, Brian Hassler and I were invited to help coach Track and Field at Bishop Foley High School in Madison Heights, MI. I was 20 years old and playing college basketball, while Brian served as the Athletic Trainer at the school (also my alma mater). While the numbers on the team were low, we knew that could be an advantage regarding how much attention we could give our athletes. This proved to be critical later in the year.

The Beginnings

Mike Rossman was a senior who finished 4th in the Division III state finals the previous year in the 400m dash. He knew me from our grade school days at St. Dennis and he trusted Brian, so when we asked him if we could change some things about his form he was about as open as anyone could be; which is kind of odd considering the lack of experience coming from Brian and myself.

I ran track in high school, but never took it as serious as basketball or football. I was good compared to local competition but not ready to compete at the state level. Brian, on the other hand, was a 215-lb. teddy bear who lifted heavy things while listening to Jack Johnson. His only track experience was 20 years earlier when he went out for one high school meet, mistakenly all-out sprinted the first 200 meters of a 400, died for a minute, then quit running forever. At the time we accepted the coaching job, we both had been doing CrossFit for four-and-a-half years. Our knowledge in running was limited to CFJ video clips  and Dr. Romanov’s Pose Method Drills. Those, it turned out, made all the difference.

When the season started we had a goal to progress slowly and simplify everything – so naturally I panicked and tried to correct every single detail at once. It lasted one practice.

Then we refined our methods. We broke our practices into two parts – technique and workout, with about twice as much time spent on technique relative to working out. While also serving as the warmup, our technique session would focus on only one element of the Pose-Fall-Pull continuum. If, for instance, falling was the point of emphasis on a certain day, we could turn a blind eye to pulling and the pose position; if they could feel the fall then we were happy. Then for the programming, Brian would use CrossFit Endurance’s principles to shape the day’s workout – such as sprint for 45 seconds, rest for 3 minutes, repeat 3-4 rounds depending on the quality. We tried to discourage people from hurdles and the two-mile because 1) they took forever and 2) it gave us more time to spend on the stuff we wanted. There were only like 15 kids on the team so they didn’t have much of a choice.

For Rossman, we showed a little more preferential treatment and got into more detail with his technique. The analysis of his races early in the year was simple: how long could he maintain Pose. It had nothing to do with time or place. At our first benchmark meet, he stayed close to the Pose frame up until the 200-meter mark, then he broke down. The next benchmark meet he stayed good up till the last straightaway then lost form.

Then he got suspended from the team for two weeks for drawing a wiener in the bus window.

The Turning Point

This was the turning point of the season and, as messed up as it sounds, was probably the single best thing to happen to us. The school told us we were not supposed to be in contact with him during the two weeks off. While we were pissed at him too, we didn’t think his adolescent prank merited isolation from the rest of the team. Plus we had our goal of winning states in mind. So Brian, myself, and Ross held individual practices during the day at remote locations. The “punishment” was an hour of technique work, then he got to be the test dummy for some workouts we had in mind. Brian’s workouts were on point, my technique training was more focused, and Ross, to his credit, was as good a student as possible. We tested out workouts like the Mile Sprint (sprint :15, rest :45, repeat till you finish a mile), and the 200, 400, 600 ladder (work up and down with a 2:1 rest to work ratio). Those ones got him pretty bad, but paled in comparison to what I think became our best training tool: The Hill.

Lamphere High School is right around the corner from Foley and they have a giant hill on their grounds with a pathway leading up and around it. Seeing that Ross had trouble maintaining Pose in the final stretch of his race, we decided to try using the hill as a way to exaggerate his form. We did not ask him to grind up the hill or increase his speed; it’s a hill fergodsakes! It will punish you. Instead, we asked him to simply maintain Pose. Don’t leave the figure-4 frame. We adjusted the starting distance to 300 meters from the top of the hill so he would finish every sprint right around 50 seconds. Four sprints with full rest in between proved to be the single most exhausting thing either of us had ever done –seeing as I had to sprint with him. Meanwhile, Ross got back on the team just in time for Regionals and saw good form up to the 350-meter mark and tied his pr of 50.3 seconds. He was 1 of of our 9 athletes to qualify for states that day.

Between that time and states, we spent a week-and-half fine-tuning some technical aspects (pulling directly into Pose was the main one) and revisiting the Hill for another dose of death. And once June 5, 2010 arrived he felt as prepared as ever.

The Race Day

He started in lane 7 and was passed up as the staggers were made up. At the 200-meter mark where I was standing he was in the middle of the pack and looked solid in Pose. He rounded the final turn with his form still intact, though he sat in 6th place. And then what I saw in the proceeding 11 seconds blew me away: Mike Rossman maintained Pose. He didn’t press. He didn’t reach. He didn’t revert to old habit. He just stayed focused on falling while pulling his foot under his hips. It was one of the most effortless things I have ever witnessed on a track and when he crossed the finish line the rest of the field was behind him. He was the MHSAA Division III 400-meter State Champion with a time of 49.8.

Now here’s something to consider: it took Mike Rossman – an already talented runner with a quick learning curve and a natural build – three months straight of daily focused technique practice and short, intense workouts just to be able to keep Pose one time around a track. Perception takes time. If you are not as talented, athletic, and genetically gifted as Ross, it will take longer. If you run a mile, or 5k, or marathon, it will take longer still. But it all comes down to the student.

If you are willing to dedicate time early on to getting the technique down, the good things tend to be more permanent. If you rush to further progressions, you will always be missing the foundation of your skill. Luckily for Brian and me, Mike Rossman proved to be a model student and set our program up for success in the years to come.