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Mentoring and Passing the Baton

QUESTION: Christian Mentoring and Passing the Baton - How the Race of Life is Like a Relay Race


By Dr. Jeff Myers

Coach Nigel Hetherington, the Scottish National Sprints and Hurdles coach, shares ten principles of the baton relay.1 What lessons can we learn from these about the race of life?
  1. The race is about the baton, not the runners. The objective is to keep the baton moving at maximum speed at all times throughout the race. The baton must always remain the fastest member of the squad!
  2. The relay brings out the best in everyone. The relay should increase, not decrease, the speed of the athletes. A properly-trained 400 meter relay team will post a time that is less than the four runners’ combined 100 meter times.
  3. Every team member should be prepared to run in all positions. Every possible combination of positions and changeovers should be practiced to allow complete flexibility in covering every eventuality.
  4. It is a good idea to practice the baton pass. Have all members of the squad stand one step apart in the same lane, facing the same direction. Give the baton to the athlete at the back and ask each to pass it until it arrives at the front.
  5. Practice until the handover becomes instinctual. Athletes must learn to trust one another. Rather than looking back, the outgoing runner should be trained to respond to a 'hand' command.
  6. Practice under pressure. Introduce the pressure of race day during practice. For example, run two or more closely matched teams together and practice exchanges with athletes on either side. Recreate spectator noise if possible.
  7. The last runner must be chosen carefully. The last leg runner must maintain form while under pressure— there’s no one else to help them out. Choose an ‘adrenaline’ runner who can hit the finish line at full speed.
  8. The baton exchange should occur at very close maximum speed. The incoming athlete should not be overstretched, or he will be off-balance when making the exchange. The outgoing runner must focus on reaching full speed and only put his hand back when he receives the ‘hand’ command.
  9. A baton drop does not automatically disqualify a team. Whoever had the baton when it was dropped may retrieve it and continue the race. If the incoming runner drops it, he may pick it up and complete the pass.
Intentional efforts will be rewarded! Improving relay skills work can be invigorating and rewarding if performed intelligently. Without doubt, a squad utilizing these principles will substantially improve race performance.

1 From “An Introductory Guide to 4 x 100m Relay Racing,”, July 2004, and from correspondence with Jeff Myers, April 2006.

Excerpted from the Passing the Baton Training Course -

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