This is the time of year where we will start to get busy. The fall sports are coming to an end this week which means a lot of our soccer players will be back in the fold.
We will also have a lot of athletes in to get ready for the spring sport season.
The combination of fall sports ending and the colder temperatures outside mean that we will get the chance to help a lot of athletes train.
Athletes and parents of athletes are always looking to improve their speed.
Sometimes it looks like they are just not quick enough. The soccer crowd is looking for their son or daughter to be quicker with their touches on the ball. Baseball players need to get down the line faster or field their position better.
There are usually a couple things at play here. Athletes that seem to be moving in slow motion are either lacking some kind of strength or not trying very hard.
When it comes to changing direction we are looking for a couple of things.
One is that we are looking for an athlete to load their hips. Athletes are often way too tall when trying to change direction.
This makes for a weak push off of the leg which slows down the entire movement. Our athletes are taught to push their hips back and get their hips lower.
Ideally, we are looking for them to get into a position that resembles the lateral lunge.
The picture of DeMarco Murray above is in a game and he is changing direction. The position looks a lot like the lateral lunge of me. Therefore I = DeMarco Murray, or something like that.
The lateral lunge is a great exercise to absorb force. The hips have to slow down the entire body to a stop in this exercise. That is precisely what happens when we are changing direction.
A body that cannot absorb force is at risk for injury and will not be very quick at changing direction.
Secondly, we have to be able to get out of the deceleration and go back the other way. Absorbing force is one thing but transferring back in the opposite direction is another.
For this we like to use crossover work.
The crossover is the key step in changing direction. Those that can get this step down are going to be much quicker than those that seem to be “stuck in the mud.”
There is technique involved in the crossover step and it must be mastered. We also need to be strong to get a good push going in the opposite direction.
Leg strength developed from squats, lunges, and deadlifts are essential to this. Combine leg strength with a powerful movement and the athlete will be in and out of cuts faster than you think.
We can also get specific.
Changing direction really comes down to two things: being able to load the hips and then explode out of that deceleration.
Strength is at the base of both of those. Strength will help the athlete absorb force better which helps them slow down in fewer steps. Strength will also help power production which is needed to get going in the opposite direction.
Sorry, ladder drills and suicides are only going to do so much for an athlete.
They will need to improve their strength if they are going to continue to improve their quickness.