Good question 🙂
And for me…the answer is “yes”, you’re probably best off to let them race as 4-steppers – even the ones you think will become 3 steppers. I think the HS seasons are just too short to not let them race. I understand the logic of not imbedding a 4 step rhythm – just to have to change it. However, it’s a huge transition from 5 stepping to 3 stepping. If we had all fall and winter to train…maybe.
Still, all my hurdlers end up running 300H’s, so they need to learn to alternate and develop their “B” leg – which they do a lot when 4 stepping 🙂
This may seem contrary to some of my previous posts – but the reality (vs. theory) is the kids need to “learn to race” and again, this is when intensity & velocity is the highest. So it’s probably no surprise that it has been under these conditions that the kids will first begin to 3 step – and often not even realize they’re doing it!
My daughter first 3 stepped a complete 100m hurdle race as a 7th grader at a USATF Regional meet (30’s on 8.0m spacing) because she was finally racing someone faster than her vs. the girl’s in middle school track she had raced. Although she was used to alternating (which is a huge asset in 7th grade where everyone else is 5 stepping) she just gave chase and raced. Naturally this was a huge PR…and even got her to the USATF Jr. Olympics for the first time. She had no clue she was 3 stepping… Ironically – she’s raced this same girl in high school and now races her in college (although she’s no longer chasing her 🙂 )
I have freshman boy who began 3 stepping H2 & H3 a couple weeks ago and didn’t even realize it until I showed him the video. He was just trying to race and took the hurdles as they came. Huge motivator…now he “believes”. Now the focus is to keep him on 3 steps deeper into the race.
I also have a sophomore girl who’s making the (often rough) transition from 4 stepping to 3 stepping. She went from a PR of 10.15 FAT last year in the 55H to 9.10 FAT this season. She had some troubles staying on 3 steps in a couple 55H races indoors and 4’d a couple here and there (and was frustrated doing so of course). It’s about rhythm and staying square into & off the hurdle (she get’s rotated on the vertical axis at times – a result of driving the lead arm across her body).
Once we got outdoors – she had no problem getting over the first 6-7 hurdles – but then would have trouble late in the race and start 4 stepping again. She’s run a 16.4 and should work her way into the high 15’s by our conference and sectional meets. Just needs to stay on 3. High drama & frustration for her. I think I need a degree in Psychology…
On the other side of the coin, I also have a senior girl who’s “vertically challenged” – but is quick and strong. Unfortunately, she ends up “bounding” and “over-striding” when she 3 steps. She can do it for 5-6 hurdles in a race – but it’s actually slower for her than 4 stepping. We’ve decided that it’s just not going to happen. And as she’s our best 300m hurdler, she’ll just use the 100H’s to work on alternating to help her “B” leg technique in the 300’s.
I’ve heard an audio interview with hurdle guru Gary Winkler where he advocates not racing kids until they are ready – as he feels it embeds technical errors that take years to undo (as a college coach). Still he acknowledges the reality that it’s just not likely to happen for most kids.
My daughter’s middle school track seasons were just 6 weeks long – so they had a meet their very first week of the season!
Not sure if this helps or not – but this has been my experience…