Speed and agility training is very helpful for young athletes. It helps to teach them good habits, coordination, and lays the foundation for speed as they get older.
I have seen tremendous benefit with the young athletes that have participated in our program at Evolution. But at the same time there is always going to be the question, do 10 year olds need to be doing speed and agility training?
The short answer is no. No one needs to be doing anything. I also do not think that 10 year olds need to be playing video games and eating McDonalds as much as they do.
I cannot think of any negatives that come from speed and agility work for young athletes. First, it gets them moving. Too many young kids sit on their butts all day and maybe get dragged to an hour long practice twice a week. No one moves anymore and we have kids in elementary school with weight issues.
Young athletes that participate in speed and agility work will get better, guaranteed. I do not have any peer reviewed research to back this up so if that’s what you are looking for you can click the X and the top of the screen. In order for the athlete to reap the benefits of the program they have to show up and do the drills. How they do it or how much effort they put in is irrelevant.
Young athletes are like sponges. They will absorb a lot of the stuff that is thrown at them. By putting them through agility drills it will teach them the skills they need to improve their quickness, whether they know it or not. It is almost subconscious. By simply showing up for their program they will benefit in terms of speed and quickness.
Here are some speed and agility tips for youth athletes.
- Young athletes are not mini adults. Train them like they are kids and let them have some fun. What works for the general population does not work for kids who can barely tie their shoes.
- Keep speed and agility drills to around 5 seconds. Anything more and the attention goes out the window. Keep the drills short and sweet to keep the kids engaged.
- “Trick” the athletes into moving fast or quick. We throw a lot of footballs to our youth kids. If they are running for a pass that was intentionally overthrown, they now need to run harder to get the ball. This is usually harder than they would have done on their own. Use other games or partner chases to accomplish this.
- Teach them good mechanics but do not spend too much time on it. This piggybacks on point 2. Teach them good form on running and jumping but too long and you will lose them. It is usually good to pick 1 thing for them to work on and continue to remind them of that 1 thing.
- Let them react. After a while some kids become so programmed in certain drills that they are really just rehearsing them. Let them react to a direction by pointing, saying left or right, or using different color cones to get them out of any routines.
- Train multiple directions and movements. Too many performance programs are only training forward and backward movements. Everything is out and back. In sport, they are usually moving in a number of different ways. Have them transition from any combination of sprinting, backpedaling, and shuffling, facing any direction
- Make them rotate. Young athletes that play a rotational sport are usually alright but could still use the help. Soccer and football players are in trouble. Their sport does not specifically require rotation. Rotation happens but it is not a main component. As a result these athletes lack the ability to rotate their upper body. All athletes should be able to rotate their bodies regardless of their sport.
- Do not spend too much time on flexibility. Most young athletes do not lack passive flexibility. They usually are missing control and stability. I would not consider this an overly urgent concern. As they get older they will become stronger and in better control of their bodies. We will get a better idea of what their mobility/stability needs are later on.
- Do still spend time on practicing good movement. Have the kids practice squats, hip hinges, pushes, and pulls. This will help to teach them good movement that they can use when they are older.
- The athlete must be having fun. If they do not have fun then they are not going to try. When they do not try everyone’s time get wasted. Figure out what makes the kids tick and get it in the program. Footballs, medicine balls, and even sled pushes usually get the job done.