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High Jump: Creating Efficiencies & Effect

How can we get more from what we have and get it to show up when we’d like it to?


Considering the structure of high jump can be extremely helpful in creating efficiencies in training and adding effect to your training activities.


The rules are simple; you get 3 tries to clear the bar. As soon as you fail to clear the bar for the 3rd time, the game is over, and your best jump is your score. Each time you clear the bar, however, it raises. This process continues until you fail three times.


This pass/progress framework can be helpful when considering how to structure your training time to not only challenge you to perform, but also to both enhance learning and to increase the output - and transfer - of your skills. I see a number of advantages:


  1. The challenge of the task shifts in response to player performance, keeping them closer to the theoretical ‘edge’ of their ability.

  2. There is a feedback loop embedded in the task that lets the athlete know that they are getting there. This self-referenced form of improvement feedback is generally helpful with motivation, confidence, and trust.

  3. High stakes, low opportunity cost; the time commitment is relatively low, but the focus level is very high. High quality reps for a defined period of time ensure that other areas of importance aren’t neglected at the expense of another.


I also understand that the notion of ‘pass/fail’ could be tricky. Just because you didn’t ‘pass’ doesn’t mean you didn’t get better; quite frankly, it is possibly (and perhaps likely) the opposite. The burst of focus, energy, and attention on something that is just a step beyond where you’re at lays some important groundwork for the future and encourages you to dig deeper to find a solution.


Up for giving it a try?

  • Consider a training task that looks and feels like golf. I am of the opinion that the sequence of play and the information you need to process should be as close to the real thing as possible. This is generally the best environment for transfer. The more skilled you are, the more important this is. For example, a challenge where you hit 7 different putts of 3 different lengths, each on different lines.


  • Consider how high to set the bar; define what a ‘pass’ is. This may vary based on conditions. Your stats can be a very helpful source of information for figuring out what a good starting standard should/could be. In the example above, let's consider (arbitrarily) that to start, an 80% make rate (17/21) constitutes a pass.


  • Set a note on your phone. In that note, create a table, with 5 columns; one will be ‘date’, one will be ‘target’, the next 3 will be 1st attempt, 2nd attempt, and 3rd attempt. Log the results from each day and attempt.


  • If within your 3 attempts you clear your target, raise the bar for the next session. Make note of the new target in advance of your next session. If for example, the player passed, they target would then shift to 18/21.


  • Continue the same process over a period of time; there will likely be a point where passing your target will become difficult and seemingly impossible. This will be a great opportunity to dig into some opportunities for improvement; this little bit of active and creative problem solving could yield discoveries that unlock something you may not have considered before that proves to be helpful. Alternatively, you may need to change the task slightly.

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