The Hard Truth About Speed & Agility Training
Kevin Hollabaugh, MHA, CSCS, USAW, FMSC
ProForce Sports Performance
At least once a week if not more I will get an inquiry about speed and agility training. First off it’s great that parents and coaches want to help their athletes get better and recognize the importance of sports performance. What they often do not understand is what your seeing is not what your needing. Very rarely will I see an athlete even at the professional level where I say "we need to get you on a speed and agility program". In fact now that I am thinking about it I have never in seven years said that.
What the coach or parent is seeing when they watch their athletes are poor movement qualities that can be from a number of issues, none of which is because they lack the ability to do a speed ladder or run a 40 with proper mechanics. What coaches and parents see is the speed and agility qualities because that is the quality they can watch and judge. Often when they look for help they seek out speed and agility training. While its a great place to start, they unfortunately look for this and if not educated will end up in a speed and agility only program. This program will often give them the results they are looking for because it will clean up some of the movement patterning qualities the athlete is missing.
If we take a step back and review speed and agility from a higher performance model we see we can train an athlete to achieve a higher level of performance, and help them achieve their potential not just improve patterning skills. The higher performance model I am referring to is looking at the three P’s Movement Position, Movement Pattern, and Movement Power to enhance movement qualities on the field. The Movement Patterning piece is what most coaches and parents are looking for help with. As we can see with the diagram below Patterning is just a piece of the puzzle and is not the foundation. If you are a qualified professional and want to truly help athletes achieve their potential then take the time to learn how to piece the three P’s together.
We need to make sure each athlete is strong and able to achieve good movement positioning first. Once we have this base then we can teach patterning and we will have more success then if we were to skip to patterning first. Once we have good positioning and patterning then we can move on to teaching patterning with power. Remember the old saying “you can't learn to run before you learn to walk”. The question I often ask coaches when discussing speed and agility programs is well how are you going to teach an athlete how to accelerate, decelerate, and change directions that doesn't even have enough stability and positioning to do a hurdle step test? Your not is the only logical answer! If you realize this and can teach the three P's then coaches and parents will begin to buy in, and see great results from training with you.
The biggest point I want to make is speed and agility training is not about doing ladder drills, cone drills, and coming up with crazy reactive drills that challenge the athletes. It’s about positioning, patterning, and creating power. I want my athletes to be able to produce more force at a higher rate of development than anyone else, and I want them to move with the least amount of energy leaks. Chances are if you came and watched our movement work you would be shocked at how it looks.
Just remember speed and agility training is simply training the three P’s as specific to an athlete's needs as possible. Here is how we do it at ProForce; we look at each athlete's sport pick out the movement skills that they use the most and need to achieve success, then we look at what movement drills we can do to help the athletes achieve good movement positioning, and patterning. We take those drills and skills, and look at what movement power work can we do in the weight room to enhance the positioning and patterning. Speed and agility is really that simple!