When athletes start training with us, we will see some dramatic improvements in agility.
In a short period of time we have seen some kids drop almost 0.5 seconds on a pro agility drill or Nebraska drill. Agility is the ability to change direction and we like it to be quick.
This is typical of any kid because they are usually untrained when they come to us. They might be the fastest kid on the team or a league all-star, but they still have plenty of room to improve.
Straight line speed is much harder to improve upon in a short amount of time. The athlete must commit to changing their running technique. This does not happen so easily because they will not make that kind of change when they believe the old way worked. It takes a mindset change.
The athletes are also used to running in a straight line. In its most primitive form, training to accelerate forward requires running forward really fast. Some athletes have experienced this chasing after a ball or a defender.
Lastly, to improve running speed we have to be able to put force into the ground. If the athletes have not gotten any stronger, they will not be able to produce that force. Strength training takes time and takes almost 3 months to start packing on strength for an untrained, young athlete.
Changing direction on the other hand comes a lot quicker. Technique is adopted faster and the athletes benefit tremendously.
On the field or court, they will change direction by any means necessary. This is not always the best way.
When it comes to agility training and improvements there are 3 adaptations that make it all happen.
- Hip mobility
Without good hips, agility will be limited. The hips must be able to crossover, open the gate, and close the gate. Opening and closing the gate are two warm up staples that most people will rush through because they are “easy.” Well, good, it’s a warm up so it should be pretty easy.
The reason they are in the warm up is because it helps with what we need to change direction. Going from a backpedal to a sprint requires one hip to open and the other to close, propelling the body forward without losing speed.
The crossover step is also essential to changing direction. Without it, we cannot explode off of the line in the opposite direction. No crossover step means no speed.
- Hamstring and glute strength
The hamstrings and glutes are two muscles heavily involved in slowing the body down. If these muscles are weak then it will take a lot longer to slow down. It also increase the risk of injury with rapid change of direction.
With agility training, combined with strength work, these muscles get much better at slowing the body down. If we can stop on a dime and then change direction we will be in good shape.
- Reactive Ability
Training reaction helps with decision making and critical thinking. This has very good transfer to sport.
If we always tell someone where they are going to stop and change direction, then there is no thought process. If the athlete has to react to a verbal cue they will have to think.
In sport, nothing is controlled and we need to prepare for that. Open drills that allow for the athlete to react are great for developing this skill.
One drill I like in particular is to put 4 cones of all different colors on the turf. The athlete will sprint straight ahead and I will call out a cone color. They will have to react to that cue and run around the cone.
This can be fun for the athletes but it is also really helpful in preparing them for their sport.