Just about every athlete and their parents want them or their kid to get faster.
It is a good strategy because athletes that are faster have an advantage over their opponents.
We cannot ignore skills and decision making, among other intangible qualities, but speed is a huge help.
I don’t think I will ever hear someone say that they would do a lot better if they are slower.
There are a lot of things that we discuss when we are looking at what makes an athlete fast.
The earlier that these athletes start implementing some of these strategies, the more it will pay off when they are older.
That being said I do not mean that 5 year olds need to be working on their running technique and doing high structured drills. They could be promoted to just run really fast while they are playing with their friends to help develop some good habits.
Increasing speed is often a simple, but not easy process. Part of our job when we are training speed is to break bad habits that sport coaches have instilled in their players.
This usually happens in the form of excess conditioning causing their athletes to get confused. Practices that are designed to make people puke provides no benefit to anyone.
The biggest part of developing speed is to change the mindset of the athlete when it comes to running.
The following list includes 3 of the biggest changes we can make for training for speed.
- The Knee Drive
The knee drive is a technique that requires attention. We do a lot of skipping and other drills intended to increase the drive of the knee for sprinting.
When we do these drills, they must transfer to an actual sprint. Without the awareness of what they are doing, the athletes do not make the connection.
Something I tell the kids is that they need to feel as though they are almost galloping when they run. Often times I will tell them this and they do not look like a horse running down the turf.
We can potentially get into trouble with the kid that does not understand and performs high knees, but I guess we can’t win them all.
Another way to put it is that they should feel like their gliding through the sprint.
Get creative and get the message across that the athletes have to drive their knees or else they are going to continue to be slow.
- Tapping into Top End Speed
Developing speed requires athletes to sprint really fast. They must get into their top end of speed to get faster.
Sadly, this is a tall order for some.
I believe part of this blame is over-conditioning in sports. When I tell the athletes to sprint 20 yards, the first question I get is: how many?
They are trying to figure out how to pace themselves for the drill.
I try to make it clear that I am not running them and I need them to run as fast as they possibly can. They need to be moving as though they are trying to outrun a defender.
Athletes cannot sprint at 85-90% of their capabilities and expect to get faster. They must start approaching that all-out effort.
- Make the Athletes Wait Around
This point goes hand in hand with point 2. If you want athletes to do something fast, they need to be given adequate rest.
Rest periods can be pretty high here because the point is to put everything into the sprint effort.
I prefer that the athletes are standing around waiting for me to call the next sprint. That way I know they are ready and recovered from the previous effort.
If the rest is too short, then the maximal sprints are no longer developing top end speed.
Give them plenty of rest to help make them fast.
Changing the mindset of athletes is not easy. When you say sprint they think they are being ran into the ground.
A simple culture change of the athletes knowing what they are doing and what is expected of them can make them faster.