What is speed and agility?
In basic terms, speed and agility are neuromuscular skills. On the sports field or court this is translated into sporting movements, and as a result can be improved in every athlete with correct coaching. Understanding movement and how it changes is essential when developing a speed and agility program. It’s the quality of coaching the fundamental movement patterns- rather than selecting a cool looking drill or toy- that will have the greatest impact on your athlete’s development. Movement is the key word when discussing speed and agility, the fastest athlete is not always the most effective. When coaching speed and agility, firstly it should be the control of the movement that is paramount and should precede everything. Once sufficient control has been established then the effective and efficient speed of movement will develop.
To some degree drill selection is irrelevant in the early stages of coaching speed and agility; again it’s all about coaching the movement. Analysis of the athlete and sporting demands need to be done to establish the key movements that if done well will benefit the athlete. Specific coaching cues need to be emphasized to get the athlete to move the way you want. Running drill after drill with the aim of getting faster and faster will turn into nothing more than a conditioning session. Sub-optimal movement patterns will only allow sub optimal speed and agility, so coach the movement not the drill.
When looking at drills to use, think about the athlete’s movements during their games, does this drill replicate that movement? Almost all court/field sports have the following elements associated with their performance –
- Side shuffles or sliding
- Change of directions
All these movements will be optimized with a good athletic position. To create an athletic position you must think about your body’s center of mass, and how it changes with different movements, so your head position becomes important as well as your line of sight. Looking at your arm and leg actions in movement is also essential, think about foot placement for such things as change of direction, acceleration and deceleration, as well as the joint angles. Focusing on these will go some way to having the correct bio-mechanical positions for movements, making them more effective and efficient. While optimizing your athlete for maximum force production and thus increases in speed and agility performance.
Many coaches have categorized movements into three distinct functions, and these functions should be analyses when selecting appropriate drills.
- Initiation movements – Starting or cutting.
- Transition movements – Reactions to something or someone. Body position and control of movement is essential here, reaction to something when off balance will not lead to good reaction times or speed of movements.
- Actualization movements – Speed or sporting skill movement.
An example of all three of these movements in one drill could be a close out drill. Start from the baseline and close out on your opponent (initiation) react to coach’s instruction of slide left, slide right (transition) and sprint full court (actualization). However this drill will only be effective if the movement can be controlled. So coach he movement not the drill.
It is important that your athletes are aware of the desired mechanics you want for each drill, and to develop an understanding of these mechanics so they can
identify when there is an error or sub optimal movement pattern. They can then begin to develop these movements efficiently and perform optimally. In order to do this coaching cues are essential from you during the drills and movements. In the same way as technical aspects of strength training have to be taught, the same is true of speed and agility training. Often an athlete is not aware of the desired mechanics of say, a change of direction. Starting slowly and developing mechanics and positional awareness is often most effective; once desired mechanics can be achieved, speed or fatigue can be added to the drill.
Follow these 4 simple rules to optimize your athletes speed and agility training –
Firstly you should establish the goal of the session or drill in the introduction, ensure that the athlete knows why they are doing it, how it can relate to their sport and improve their performance. Failure to do this effectively will result in little buy in from the athlete and “going through the motions”.
Secondly, provide simple and quality instruction of the drill with verbal, visual and kinesthetic (by feeling the movement). Keep it simple and limit it to a few key points that you want to focus on. Try to keep your coaching cues consistent so your athletes will instantly understand what you mean (for example get in an athletic position). Performing a quality demonstration is essential for your athlete to understand the drills and the movements focus on a few key points, as your athlete becomes better and more advances get more precise with your cues.
Start slow, build up to fast.
Start your drills at a basic level, ensure mechanics are correct at each stage of learning. If athletes are being exposed to new technicalities of speed and agility training for the first time, often statically holding the required positions can be useful to develop kinesthetic awareness of the required movement. Speed can be added once mechanics and movement patterns are sound. A further progression would then be to see how the movement pattern holds up under fatigue. Once these aspects of your athletes speed and agility are sound, moving away from closed drills will add further challenge to their speed and agility development. The aim is to get to the point where they can reach their optimal performance and the movements become automatic, so the drills will become more complex and a lot more sport specific. Success at any of these levels requires that each athlete is competent at the previous one[J6] .
Finally provide specific feedback to each individual, you eventually want your athlete to understand when they are doing it correctly and incorrectly, so they themselves can make adjustments. Feedback should be a few key points, focusing on the major issues or limiting factors, again keeping it simple and not overloading your athlete with information, that will invariably lead them to over thinking.
Four very simple rules to follow yet miss one and the drill could become a waste of time for you and the athlete.It is a progression so to reach optimum performance with speed and agility, and before moving onto harder or faster drills, ensure that you are –
- Efficient at the movement,
- Can control the movement,
- Can understand the movement.
As coaches it’s down to us to ensure that our athlete, first become competent movers and then progress to excel at movement. Then and only then can we truly see the reward of a structured speed and agility program. Remember, coach the movement not the drill.
For more info and to work with a experiences coach contact us at DoTraining HERE