If you like watching poetry in motion, take a look at Tennessee's men's 4x100 team. In just one year as the Vols' sprint, hurdles and horizontal jump coach, Norbert Elliott molded a young 4x100 relay unit into the third-fastest in school history. Here, Elliott lays out his 10 keys to making quick, smooth baton exchanges.
For The Incoming Runner
1. Run through the entire exchange zone at max speed. Don't slow down in anticipation of handing off the baton.
Elliott: I never want to see any deceleration in the exchange zone. You need to run the zone and not the man.
2. Pass the baton to the outgoing runner when both of you reach max speed.
Elliott: The baton exchange is easier when your speeds match.
3. When you reach the outgoing runner, use a verbal command like "reach" or "stick" to let him know to extend his arm.
Elliott: Using a verbal command can counter your tendency to slow down.
4. Pass the baton in a pushing motion.
Elliott: Since it's a blind exchange for the outgoing runner, you are responsible for placing the baton in his hand.
For The Outgoing Runner
5. Mark a two-foot-long area in your exchange zone with tape. The second piece of tape is where you should stand, waiting for the incoming runner. When the incoming runner hits the first piece of tape, you should begin sprinting. Finding a two-foot area that works for you and the incoming runner requires a lot of trial and error.
Elliott: Using two marks gives you more depth perception. Make sure your marks enable both of you to be at maximum speed when the exchange occurs.
6. Accelerate off your mark as hard as possible.
Elliott: You want to maximize the exchange zone. To do that, lead the incoming runner as much as possible.
7. When the verbal command is made, angle your arm just outside your shoulder with a slight bend at the elbow. You want your thumb deposed, palm flat and fingers together.
Elliott: Don't open your fingers. That provides a sloppy target and increases your tendency to grab.
8. Make your target visible to the incoming runner.
Elliott: Keep your arm and hand up, right between the chest and chin, so the incoming runner can't miss it.
If The Baton Exchange Doesn't Go As Planned
9. Avoid running beyond the zone.
Elliott: Never stop completely. The number one thing is to not brakejust tap the brakes to temper your speed.
10. Ideally, you want to receive the baton at top speed, but ¾ speed is better than stopping.
Elliott: Don't panic; trust your practice and teammates.
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