Measuring the Speed of Track Runners: What Coaches Should Know

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Acquiring a working knowledge of all areas associated with performance is part of the responsibilities of a track and field coach. In track and field, speed is one of the key metrics of physical performance. Speed is critical, as it can impact other areas of performance such as agility, acceleration, and distance covered.

For this reason, it’s crucial to be able to measure speed with accuracy. Your assessment of your team’s speed will allow you to determine player selection and identify which areas of your training and conditioning program need to be adjusted.

For track and field coaches, speed data is key to their team’s performance. In the past, coaches measured speed using paper, a pen, and a stopwatch. Still, far more accurate and objective methods—such as measuring using a sports radar gun or an electronic timing system—are available today.

Read on to learn more about the different types of speed testing equipment.

Radar Systems

Radar systems can measure the distance, angle, or velocity of objects through radio waves. While radars are used to detect motor vehicles and weather formations, fitness testing and sports coaches can also use them to measure the speed of a runner.

Some sports radar systems require a tripod or other stable mounting option. However, you can also find more portable handheld sports radar guns on the market. A sports radar gun is easy to use and provides information on velocity changes nearly instantly.

Electronic Performance and Tracking Systems (EPTS)

The global positioning system (GPS) technology used in electronic performance and tracking systems can be used to measure a runner’s average running speed, total running distance, and total sprinting distance. By having their players use wearable EPTS, coaches can also determine which athletes are in peak condition for the season or need rest.

Timing System

Another way to measure the speed of track runners is through timing systems. Although most of them still rely on infrared beams with timing gates, such systems provide a more accurate and reliable speed measurement than a stopwatch.

A timing gate is composed of a pair of tripods set at specified distances. Through infrared signals, these gates record every time the beam is broken, which means that the runner has passed that exact distance at that particular time.

Before investing in a timing system, it’s important to identify how often you’ll use it. If you only test speed once a year, buying a timing system might not be worth it.

Other Factors to Consider

While equipment is essential to accurately assess the runner’s speed, other factors also play an important role.

  • Readiness of the Athlete: The physical condition, motivation, mood, or intentions of the runner may also affect the accurate representation of performance data. Taking into consideration the daily readiness of the athlete must always be part of the process.
  • Clarity of Directions: How instructions are given can also create errors in measurement. The runner could deviate from the specified pace because of unclear instructions. Make sure that speed test procedures are clear to the athlete before you begin.
  • Competence of the Practitioner: The proper use of equipment is crucial to come up with accurate results. It’s essential to be familiar with the potential for error in readings of speed and other variables.

Get Reliable Speed Data

Using faulty or poorly made equipment can cause errors in speed measurements. To avoid this, make sure to invest in a high-quality and accurate device.

When it comes to speed measurement equipment needs, turn to Radar Sports, LLC. We carry a wide selection of radar guns and accessories from trusted manufacturers. Contact us today to learn more about our products.

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