6 speed and Agility Tips for Football Players
Athletes are constantly seeking out speed and agility tips to make their programs more effective. When it comes to football having the edge over your competition in speed and agility is everything. What does it matter how big you are in the weight room if it doesn't translate into covering ground on the field? The weight room training should be done with regards to the following two questions,
A) Is the strength training improving my speed and agility? If so, with what tests am I proving my assertion?
B) Is the strength training preparing my body (Ie creating "body armour") for the violent collisions that i need to give and take on the field?
After talking with literally dozens of coaches from a wide range of perspectives and looking at what is happening all over the country, I have come up with six keys to increasing the effectiveness of any speed & agility program. Here are the 6 simple speed & agility tips:
1. Athlete Education. Are your performance coaches explaining why you are doing a certain drill or exercise? Their must be a reason to the madness. Simple making an athlete tired is not an effective strategy in making that athlete a more powerful and efficient. During my years training the National Speed Skating team in China the head coach and team leaders didn't care at all about how tired I made their athletes what they cared about is how fast they skated. Four years later they broke world and Olympic records and won 7 gold medals in the Vancouver Olympics. At the Jungle we teach our athletes the WHY which we have found will motivate an athlete to work harder because they will understand how their hard work will pay off in the game. Bottom line if you don’t have a clear understanding of the purpose of a drill, you’re probably missing something.
I can’t tell you how often I see coaches lining up cones, ladders and boxes in the name of speed and agility training, but the movements used in the drills have absolutely nothing to do with the movements used in the sport. If you have to explain how it will help the athlete, you are more likely to choose appropriate drills.
2. Focus on mechanics. Allowing athletes to do drills with faulty movement patterns is like a golf pro watching his student hit ball
after ball with terrible flaws in his swing, and never providing any corrective feedback. Athletes practice sport skills and play games all the time, but they are rarely taught how to move properly; they are just expected to know how. But, if a kid has never been shown how to do something, how can you expect him/her to do it correctly?
Of all the speed & agility tips listed in this article, this may be the most important.
It is up to you to find a coach who can teach most basic movement concepts in sports – running, cutting, shuffling, pivoting, jumping, etc. Athletes are not learning this anywhere else, so it is up to the coach to teach them these valuable movement skills. This is exactly what the IYCA Certified Speed & Agility Specialist (CSAS) course teaches, which is the certification that all Jungle coaches are expected to obtain.
We begin by teaching our athletes like they have never performed these movements in their lives. If your not working with a specialist you can always video tape your running and cutting and make improvements from there.
3. Quality not quantity. Too often, SAQ workouts turn into conditioning sessions. Remember, the goal is improving speed and agility, not aerobic fitness. Keep the work periods short and the rest periods long so the athletes can give 100% effort on each drill. You are trying to teach the nervous system how to work more efficiently, so the athletes need to be fresh. If the rest periods are too short, the work periods too long, or the athletes are simply fatigued from previous work, mechanics will disintegrate and the same old faulty movement patterns will ultimately be reinforced.
For optimal speed development results, keep the work periods to 2-10 seconds and the rest periods as long as 20-60 seconds or even longer if the intensity is extremely high. Long rest periods are used so the drills can be done with maximum intensity.
4. Sport specificity. As long as you are trying to learn to move more efficiently, it makes sense to practice movements that will actually be used in a game. Sprinting and cutting are used in just about every sport, but don’t forget about the very specific skills your athletes need to perform on the field or court. These movements include shuffling, stopping, pivoting, faking, spinning, cross-over running, backpedaling, etc.
As much as possible, include these movements into your SAQ sessions. Baseball and softball players should practice starting sprints like they are stealing a base. Volleyball players should incorporate lunging, approach steps and jumps into their drills. Football receivers should practice their routes. Quarterbacks should incorporate drop steps and linemen should start drills from 2-, 3-, or 4-point starting positions. Use your imagination to create drills that mimic competition.
Ladder drills and plyos are great general training methods, but if you don’t practice their most important movements you should never wonder why they don’t perform them well in a game.
5. Consistency. As I stated earlier, SAQ programs are meant to train the nervous system. The best way to make this happen is to consistently practice sport specific skills so the nervous system learns the optimal movement patterns. 5-20 minutes, 2-3 days per week is all it takes.
You can make this happen by adding two short drills to your warm-up routine, or including one or two sport-specific drills into the beginning of each strength training session. This does not mean strength movements that “resemble” the sport movements – I’m talking about actually doing a couple of sprints or agility drills before each workout. As long as technique is emphasized, this brief, consistent practice will add up and allow your athletes to perform these skills perfectly on the field or court without any thought. You basically have to take the other five speed & agility tips listed here, and apply them consistently to get the best results.
6. Long-term development. Another major problem I see in a lot of SAQ programs is implementing them a few weeks before the season, hoping for a miracle. Starting these drills 2-3 weeks before your first game is simply too late for major benefits to be seen. Unfortunately, many athletes hope that a few simple speed & agility tips will work like magic. That’s not how athletic development works, so make sure you have enough time to make a real impact.
You will certainly see benefits from doing SAQ drills during your pre-season, but working the drills into your year-round training program will elicit maximum results. Pre-season training should focus on technical/tactical skills and conditioning. Too often, though, I see coaches conditioning the athletes during the off-season; this is a waste of time and energy. If you have contact with your athletes during the off-season, work on strength, movement training and technical skill development for the greatest long-term results.
If you can teach your freshmen how to move, and include a few minutes of practice before every strength training session, imagine what a difference that will make by the time they are juniors and seniors. It’s never too early to learn how to move. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
Introduce changes gradually, and continually attempt to make improvements. Speed and agility training will have a positive impact on any team, and incorporating these six keys will help you run the most effective program possible.
I hope these 6 speed & agility tips help you create more effective programs that will make a bigger impact on your training!
Special thanks to Jim Kielbaso