5 Ways to Utilize The 10 Yard Dash in Evaluating Athletes

By Coach Matt June


The majority of field athletes play a sport that requires them to accelerate quickly over a short distance. This alone is a reason enough for us to test a 10 yard dash. During the assessment of athletes, we have found benefit in utilizing the 10 yard dash for every type of athlete that enters the facility. 

-In a very short period of time, a 10 yard dash test will simply tell me if this athlete is fast or not. That’s for starters. I’ve found the 10 yard dash is a fantastic tool to expose technique, for good or bad. Looking at how an athlete attacks their first 3 steps can showcase the game speed of the athlete.

-In more detail, our 10 yard dash test is used beyond a metric of speed. Often times we utilize the test as a day to day measure of training preparedness. Done on our laser timing systems, we can get an objective measure to determine the recovery level of the athlete from previous training days. 

-From a safety standpoint, the 10 yard dash is one of the safest forms of sprint training you can be doing.  Once an athlete starts getting near max velocity, they run a greater risk for injury. Rarely do I see someone get a sprint related injury in the first 10 yards.

-Finally, Let’s also not forget about the general concept of a young athlete simply having fun, running fast and getting their time.  This goes a long way and the training intent increases when you start timing sprints.  

1: Are you fast or not

During assessment of athletes, we have found benefit in utilizing the 10 yard dash from youth to professional. In a very short period of time, a 10 yard dash test will simply tell me if this athlete is fast or not. That’s for starters. 

2: Tests Daily Preparedness of the Athlete

Often times I will have athletes perform a series of 10 yard sprints immediately following their warmup. This is a tool that I use to assess how prepared this athlete is to train that day. Major decreases in 10 yard sprint time will show me that an athlete may not be prepared to train at a high intensity that day. More importantly, if an athlete is consistently getting lower and lower times on a daily 10 yard sprint test, it may be time to adjust program volume and intensity and explore recovery and lifestyle strategies that they athlete may be struggling to implement.

3: A Functional Assessment tool

By watching an athlete run multiple 10 yard sprints we can get a pretty accurate idea of what TYPE of athlete they are. Are they elastic or muscle dominant? In short, elastic dominant athletes utilize stretch in fascia and connective tissue to produce force. Muscle dominant athletes utilize the contractile properties of the muscle itself to produce force. While both types of athletes may in fact run the same 10 yard dash time, a trained coach can see and hear the difference in the type of contact the athlete’s foot makes with the ground. This tells us how we will likely have to train them in the weight room. For example, an elastic dominant athlete might not need a large volume of plyometrics in their program where as a muscle dominant athlete might benefit greatly to an increased volume of jumps and plyometrics in their training.

4: A Personality Assessment Tool

What KIND of athlete are we training.  Regardless of age or training experience, we see a broad range of competitive expression when athletes perform a sprint test. I can identify the ego-oriented competitor, who may be overly concerned with another athlete’s time in relation to theirs. On the other hand, we have the confident competitors, who regardless of anyone around them they are on a mission to breaking their previous times. Lastly, I can identify the non-competitors, and more specifically, the nervous competitors. These athletes are those who generally fear failure and therefore don’t invest emotional energy into the task.  Regardless of the type of competitor, it is critical to time every 10 yard sprint to allow the athlete feedback in the intent they are eliciting every rep. In those who may shy away from being evaluated, it is important that the coach implements specialty exercises to allow the athlete to increase their acceleration ability. 

5: Answers the Important Questions

From a technique standpoint, the 10 yard dash is going to show me how this athlete accelerates. Are they standing tall, short, hunched over? How is their head position? What do their arms look like?  Are they moving too much side to side? Is their foot getting underneath them? What does their shin angle look like? How is their foot striking the ground? All of this happens in 8-12 steps. For many of our field athletes, this is sometimes all I need to see to assess whether or not this athlete is running with the proper technique that will allow them to maximize their speed potential.

Five Drills that Can Help Improve My 10 yard Dash

1. Bounding 

2. First three steps through low hurdles (working on foot placement shin/torso angle) 

3. Hill Sprints 

4. Resisted Sled Sprinting 

5. Barefoot Sprinting

Concluding thoughts

With so many different metrics being tested on athletes with incredible new technology, do we really know if any of these tests are answering the major question… Does the measurement have transfer to the field of competition? The 10 yard sprint is a simple test that I have utilized with all athletes in providing objective information in evaluating an athlete. From tracking speed and acceleration, to determining the functional and psychological predisposition of the athlete. More and more professionals in our field work tirelessly to create amazing, in-depth movement screenings, however my message to leave the reader with is to not forget about the simple tool of putting an athlete on the starting line. 

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