Athletes must be able to use multiple movements in their sport. Sports are unpredictable and require a combination of shuffling, sprinting, backpedals, sprints, stops, etc.
One speed quality that athletes need to be able to master is the shuffle. The shuffle seems so simple, but there are a lot of things that can go wrong.
Improving technique with the shuffle allows an athlete to get into better positions on the field or court. Most of the time this is going to be relevant when retreating or playing defense.
Shuffling technique can be improved with a few tweaks in technique and changes in how it is used.
1. Learn the Lateral Progression
The lateral progression is one of the most basic patterns athletes can learn when moving side to side.
It teaches you to
- Push off of the back leg
- Clear the front leg
- Gain distance laterally
Poor shuffling technique occurs when the athlete “pulls” with the lead foot. Get it out of the way and push off of the back leg. This will allow you stay in an athletic position and move quickly.
2. Shorten the Distance
One of the biggest mistakes young coaches, myself especially, make is to let the shuffle go too long.
A distance between 5-10 yards is perfect. Too long of a shuffle and the effort/attention gets lost. Then we lose the good technique we were trying to work on.
Instead of going for a longer distance, add reps to a shorter distance.
3. Add in Transitions
After a certain point, shuffling gets boring. We have to switch up how we are working on the movement.
Adding in changes of direction are a great way to work on reaction. I like using the following progression.
- Shuffle 5 yards and back- repeat 2 each way
- Shuffle out and back on a coaches cue- 2 each way
- Shuffle out, back, then sprint out all on coaches cue- 2 each way
This allows the athlete to start building up their reactive ability and stringing together transitions. Being able to shuffle into a sprint is the real magic of good quickness.
4. Combine shuffling with backpedals and sprints
Taking the last point one step further, an athlete has no clue what kind of movements they are going to be required to do on the field.
In a typical soccer play an athlete may have to shuffle left, backpedal, sprint to the right, and shuffle again.
Simply put, you do not know what movements you have to put together so practice multiple combinations of them.
5. The sprint comes sooner than you think
I know I kind of already talked about this in one of the points above but it needs repeating. Most of the time, an athlete is not going to shuffling all that far. Maybe 3 steps.
After those 3 shuffles you are either beat and need to sprint or the direction changes. This makes it all the more important to be able to gain ground out of a shuffle deceleration.
When transitioning from a shuffle change, most athletes will pivot. Instead, push into the ground and gain some distance. It will help you cover more ground, creating quickness.