Athletics New Zealand coach development manager Kerry Hill is pioneering what he calls "a massive fundamental change for our relay techniques".
Hill facilitated a breakthrough series of lectures and hands-on training over the weekend in Tauranga, with coaches and athletes gathering from all over New Zealand to learn from two of the world's most esteemed relay coaches from Poland.
Jacek Lewandowski and Pawel Jesien were invited by Hill to share their knowledge after Hill's lengthy research on relay events showed Poland to consistently be a world leader in relay performances.
"I have visited the top 12 countries in the world, which follows on from my 10-year Prime Minister's scholarship study of relay systems, worldwide," Hill said. "I did a study on who is consistent and who performs well at the top races, and found some countries were better than others and that was surprising who was strongest.
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"Poland and Brazil are the most consistent finalists at Olympics and world champs in relays, 4x100, 4x400, men and women. It is clear that they therefore have much to offer. We currently, in most schools and clubs, follow the techniques of the recently most disqualified country in the world, USA. This must change, and the Poles offer the best system with a high success rate for four decades.
"Some countries have a better resource as they are full of individual black athletes but 45 per cent of the countries who were finalists in my study were not black athletes at all. If they are performing more consistently than USA then what are they doing that is so right? They (Poland) have a system that has been going for 30 or 40 years and I know it operates from children to seniors, with the same take-offs and the same change overs."
Hill was pleased with the turnout over the weekend.
"Most of the top athletes are here, including all of the promising juniors and their coaches, and that is real good looking towards the World Junior champs next year. The focus has been on motivation, concentration and fundamental technique changes. There is an opportunity to make teams as relay runners and that is the best chance of making a team to a major meet like the world champs, the Olympics or Commonwealth Games.
"There are a lot of teams in world finals now that have no individuals in the world semifinals, but their whole team has got into the final."