Master the 3 Qualities of Speed and Agility

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This post started as an email to our list, which is usually the opposite of how I do things. Normally, I write the post first and then email out key points with a link.

This time I got on a roll with this and wanted to expand on where I started.

A lot of people who run programs or practices try to do a good job and help their athletes become faster and quicker. This is a tough task because working on those qualities could take up the bulk of practice. And the drills that are easy to use for a team are missing the mark.

Simple cone and ladder drills are good and provide more benefits than doing nothing. That does not mean they are the right strategy to improve speed and quickness, though.

We like to train speed and agility using 3 different goals for the session. Whatever we are focusing on that day is where our efforts go. This breakdown allows us to create well rounded programs to help athletes get faster and quicker.

1. Acceleration

Straight line speed is acceleration. A common complaint from most athletes or parents is that they are not explosive or slow off the line. They lack the explosiveness they need to accelerate quickly.

To improve acceleration we look to improve knee drive, arm action, foot contact, trail leg extension, and first step. Now we can’t hit all of those things every time but we are constantly looking for those.

After working on some technique, we always put it together by getting the athletes to actually sprint fast.

2. Deceleration

Acceleration work gets all of the glory but deceleration work is the most important. Very rarely does an athlete get to only make free sprints in their sport. They spend much more time stopping and changing direction.

A lot of athletes lose their quickness because they cannot slow down properly. Being able to put on the breaks is the biggest determinant of quickness and is also the skill that is learned quickest. Bringing up this weakness is essential.

There are two types of deceleration that athletes need to prepare for. Linear decel is stopping facing forward and lateral decel is stopping towards the side.

Both are needed and one is not more important than the other.

One of the best ways to train for deceleration is to land a jump with good technique and without any further movement.

Want to know what good landing mechanics look like? 9 out of 10 times it is the position you jump from. Most athletes start their jump in a good position and need to mimic that in the landing.

Beyond just slowing down, being able to react is a progression of this. Work on reacting to different cues. This can be pointing, yelling left/right, or switching between different movements. Segue!

3. Multi Directional Movement

Athletes need to be able to switch between shuffling, backpedaling, and sprinting in various combinations. Being able to change directions in these different movement patterns should get some attention. After, we practice that we can work on combining different movements- like shuffling to a sprint.

Think of different movements you can string together and work on smooth transitions between them.

As unprofessional as it sounds, sometimes the best way to train for this is to literally make it up. You never know what is going to happen in a game so make it as unpredictable as possible.