Athletes must be quick.
Quickness is really rapidly changing direction. It involves accelerating, decelerating, reacting, and moving in multiple directions.
Being quick is very beneficial because it allows the athlete to create space with a defender. It also allows the athlete to play solid defense and stay with an opposing player.
This is important in most team sports.
It is often the one quality that most athletes have the most opportunity to improve with as well.
The reason for that is change of direction is usually not trained in a sport setting. Coaches can try but they usually do not know how.
Running in a straight line or jumping are both a little bit more difficult to train because most athletes are so used to doing them a certain way. It takes longer to break old habits and teach new techniques. Agility work can be integrated right away.
Here are some qualities that make for good change of direction.
You must be able to slow yourself down quickly and efficiently in order to be quick overall. This is the first step.
When running full speed it should take about 3 steps or less to come to a complete stop. A good stop would have the hips back, knees bent, and balanced.
An error we see all the time is an athlete stops at their mark and then falls over one second later. They did not decelerate properly and their momentum was taking them forward. This is not desirable for athletes that want to be quick.
Once you have come to a complete stop you have to be able to get going the other way in a hurry. This requires a combination of trail leg extension and gaining ground with a crossover step.
Let’s say that you have stopped facing the right. Push into the ground with both legs. The left leg should crossover and reach in front of the body to start going back to the start. While this happens the right leg should be fully extended to help move in that direction.
Once you have come out of the deceleration, you have to start running like you have been shot out of a cannon, no exceptions.
Reaction is more of the mental side to agility training. Simply put, you cannot be quick if you cannot process information.
We like to use pointing, verbal cues, and different cone colors to train reaction.
Quickness is tough to train with a lot of pre-programmed drills. Running the pro agility over and over may make you good at that test but I am not sure you will be able to take that to the field without bringing some reaction into play.
Short Work with Breaks
If you are going to train for quickness, you cannot combine it with conditioning. That comes later.
When performing an agility drill, it should take less than 8 seconds for a high school athlete. The break in between should be 30-45 seconds at minimum.
There is a notion that standing around at practice or training is a bad thing. It could not be further from the truth. Intelligent standing around serves an important purpose.
Parents and athletes wonder why they or their athlete is slow on the field. When we take a deeper look at their practice, we can get some answers.
Athletes that are always on the move for 60 minutes are going through (improper) conditioning, not speed or agility training. There needs to be an all out effort followed by a rest period in order to improve upon those qualities.
In order to get quicker we start with addressing technique. Once technique is good we can start adding some reaction or unknown variables. When we train there has to be rest periods. Hit on these aspects and you will be on your way to better performance.