A lot of athletes come to us because they or their parents want them to work on their agility.
Agility is simply an athlete’s ability to change direction. This is a skill that helps make athletes successful.
If you were building a team and two athletes both have the same traits across the board but one changes direction better, who are you taking? Obviously the one that moves better.
Agility training is important for athletes because we see that it is the number 1 area where athletes can grow. They can also make progress in this area quickly.
We have consistently seen dramatic improvements in an athlete’s ability to change direction in 8 weeks. Linear work, like a vertical jump or 20 yard dash, takes much more time to improve.
An athlete that changes direction well is going to be the athlete that always seems to be in the right place. This is one of those skills that coaches covet but there are not a lot of explanations as to what develops this skill. If an athlete can stop themselves and get going the opposite way faster, then they are more likely to be in the thick of the action.
When it comes to agility training there are a few techniques that athletes need to take on to be successful.
- Learn to Slow Down
This is the first part of changing direction. Athletes should be able to almost stop on a dime. Until they develop the strength to do it, it usually takes a few steps to come to a stop.
The goal is to minimize how many steps it takes to slow down.
Good technique when decelerating involves the hips hinged back and the knees bent. We want to lower our center of gravity to make it easier to keep the body under control. Standing too tall makes it difficult to stop in minimal steps.
Strength training complements this piece of speed training. We must have strong hamstrings to slow the body down. Training with deadlifts, RDLs, GHRs, and other hamstring curl variations are good ways to build strength.
- Explode from a Stop
Once an athlete has figured out how to slow down they then need to practice getting going quickly again. Too few athletes explode out of their turns. A lot of athletes will stay tall, put a foot in the ground, and then just arbitrarily turn around.
The better way to get going in the opposite direction is to bend at the knees and hips, push into the ground in what is almost a jump going the other way, and gain ground to start sprinting away.
Most athletes do not get in and out of slowing down well. I try to make them all realize that if they do not explode yourself away from a stop they will have to take more steps and more effort to get to the same place.
Athletes must gain ground when taking that first step in the opposite direction.
- Move Quickly
This is something that I have been tinkering with lately. A lot of our athletes have been with us for a long time. After some time it seems like they should be making more progress on the turf than they are.
Sometimes athletes get too caught up with technique that they forget to actually move as fast as they possibly can. Even thinking about moving fast will help them get there.
I am a big believer that 90% of athletes have more in the tank than they usually give out. These athletes must figure out how to use everything and move as fast as they can.
We see similar things in linear speed. Sometimes the athlete just needs to put in that extra effort to get better.
The athletes that can turn it on and move relentlessly fast will continue to make progress when it comes to agility training.
It does not have to be complicated and training usually is not. Sometimes the secret is just deep in the athlete to try harder.
When they are giving it their all, then we can use the technique to continuously improve.