31 Random Thoughts on Speed and Agility Training

NY Jets vs. Buffalo, Oct 2009 - 43

Speed and agility training has been a focus of mine for several years now.

Around 2010 I came to the realization that if I wanted to become a more complete coach, a true physical preparation coach, that I had to get better at programming conditioning and coaching speed and agility work.

Since then, I’ve made it a huge focus to get better in these focal areas. I’ve learned a ton along the way, and just when I think I’m getting pretty good, I chat with someone like Lee Taft or Ty Terrell and realize how much I have left to learn.

Regardless, here’s a collection of things I’ve been thinking about with regards to coaching, cuing and programming speed and agility work in my program.

Enjoy!

  1. Training strength is not only easy, but it’s easy to love because it’s easily measured. I think more than just strength we need to start focusing more on elasticity.
  2. In sport, everyone gets beat. The question becomes, how quickly can you react or recover?
  3. The abs are crucial for multi-directional speed. If you can’t control the pelvis, you can’t load the hip. And if you can’t load a hip…
  4. Acceleration and change of direction are all about angles. Find better angles and you’ll immediately get faster.
  5. Med balls are officially one of my favorite speed tools (thanks Ty and Lee).
  6. Speed is no different from any other form of training. Make the athlete feel successful early-on, even if that means using an easier exercise, drill or regression.
  7. It’s not just tension, but relaxation, that makes athletes fast.
  8. If an athlete moves incredibly well, don’t feel forced to coach or cue them. Give ’em the old “atta boy” and move on.
  9. Wall drills create context for acceleration postures and positions (thanks Nick).
  10. If you’re not a fan of wall drills, try using a heavy weighted Prowler instead. The mechanics are slower and more cerebral, but it may help the athletes better feel the torso angle and pushing position you want them in.
  11. My favorite acceleration cues (you don’t have to agree with all of them):
    1. “Chase the shoulders.”
    2. “Push!”
    3. “Knees up”
  12. When teaching lateral movement to basketball players, please stop cuing them to “swivel” through the foot. This not only makes them slower, but opens up the likelihood of injury as well. Teach them to reposition their feet instead.
  13. The arms are crucial for speed development. Don’t forget to teach an athlete how to use them!
  14. Don’t try to coach an athlete into a posture/position that isn’t available to them! This is why an initial assessment is so critical – determine what movement/motion they have available to them and start there.
  15. Don’t just teach an athlete to accelerate or create force – teach them to control it.
  16. And on the flip side, deceleration isn’t the end game – re-accelerating is!
  17. If you struggle coaching speed and agility work early-on (which I definitely did), record the session and then play it back later using a tool like Coaches Eye.
  18. THIS is definitely on my radar in the future. If you want to get better you need to seek out the best and learn from them!
  19. One of the best things I learned from Boo at this year’s Physical Prep Summit was ways to introduce elasticity work into the warm-up. This is going to be something that I incorporate more and more of going forward.
  20. Many people have asked who I’ve learned from when it comes to speed and agility training. Here’s a short list of people that have influenced me, both directly and indirectly: Charlie Francis, Lee Taft, Nick Winkelman, Dan Pfaff, Boo Schexnayder, Derek Hansen, Brett Bartholomew, Loren Landow, Buddy Morris and James Smith. I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone, but learning from that crew would be a great place to start.
  21. Frans Bosch is next on my continuing education list, along with Lee’s Certified Speed and Agility Coach certification.
  22. It’s not measurable, but skills like anticipation and “understanding the game” can make even average athletes look or play faster than they are.
  23. I don’t care what anyone says – this guy is amazing:
  24. I need a bigger facility. Two things I want to do more of (where space is a serious limitation right now) are tempo runs and longer accelerations/sprints. Hopefully my guys over at PLAE can hook a brother up when it’s time to build IFAST 3.0!
  25. One of the biggest issues when it comes to speed development is a hamstring pull. This article should help you fix that problem.
  26. I always preach to my athletes that most games are won in tight spaces. Therefore, we’re going to work on accelerations, changes of direction, etc. A lot.
  27. Sometimes just getting stronger and/or leaner is all you need to see serious improvements in speed and agility.
  28. Just because speed is the least trainable quality, doesn’t mean it’s not trainable at all. Put in quality work and good things will happen.
  29. The key here is quality. If your athletes aren’t fresh and prepared to train at a high-level, don’t waste your time.
  30. Athletes may love the agility ladder, but I think it’s use is pretty limited.
  31. Once you’ve taught the mechanics, make your athletes compete. They’ll always be faster.

The thoughts are pretty broad and wide ranging these days, but they’re also clearer and more in focus than ever before.

What about you? Anything new or novel you’re learning with regards to speed development?

Or maybe something you’re just flat-out doing better these days?

If so, I’d love to know. Leave a comment below so we can continue the discussion!

All the best

MR

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  1. Number 28 is money. Don’t overpromise increasing speed, but don’t ignore the fact it can be improved. Great list…thanks for doing this.

  2. Coach – love the first comment regarding the need to develop standards for measuring elasticity (in addition to just strength). Aside from a vertical or broad jump, anything that you have been using or seen used that you like?

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