Monday, March 21, 2011

3 Part Series: Part 3 Agility for Ages 14 and Up

There can be a lot of different implements used for agility in high school all the way up to the pros. We often see speed ladders, cone drills, and some other made up device that supposedly doubles your agility speed in 5 minutes. If you read my post about the difference in change of direction speed vs agility that is where my opinion may differ. Again change of direction speed is needed but as sport performance trainers, I don't think it carries over to the field as much as we'd like.

For field and court sport athletes we look at their ability to make people miss on offense and to stay in front and react on defense. Now a big factor is if they we consistently doing the games and drills in Part 1 and Part 2. If they were exposed, than continue off of that. If a child wasn't exposed to a lot of activity, or had some awful coaches, using drills to get them move naturally is probably necessary. I steal all those techniques from Lee Taft, The Speed Guy, who is the master!

But for those who had a good base (and those who didn't this will help improve as well) here are my 3 strategies for improving agility.

Strategy #1: Proper Lifting and Plyometric Progression
This is absolutely essential. I don't know a 14-16 year old (or 99% of athletes for that matter) who is too strong. They can all get stronger, more explosive, and have more body awareness. I suggest a dynamic warmup, plyometrics and olympic lifts, a lot of unilateral training (single leg and single arm), and proper "core" training (no situps or crunches). Plyometrics should also emphasize two aspects, eccentric landing and leg stiffness. I will go into this in a future post, in the meantime check out Brian McCormick's article on this subject.

Here's one of Coach Mike Boyle's hop progressions that are great for agility.

Here's a progression working on the elasticity of jumping

Strategy #2: Develop it Through the Sport
I know I know, that's for the coach of the team, not you. WRONG! You can absolutely throw in drills if you have the space and numbers. Pick your sport, Basketball-Closeout drills, soccer-1 on 1, Football-1 on 1 WR-CB's, baseball/softball- base stealing, etc. These repetitions are huge for learning and reinforcement. The only coaching I may do in this instance is cuing them staying low and in proper position. They should be making mistakes and figuring out how to correct them. The Talent Code and Talent is Overrated explains this idea of deep/deliberate practice, that speeds up the learning process.

Strategy #3: Mirror Drills, Tag Games and Small Sided Ball Games
You'd would be surprised how much fun and how hard a group of high school and college guys work playing some sort of tag variation or game like team keep away. Creating this competition atmosphere is extremely efficient for agility training. They now move at game speed immediately and more importantly react to an external stimulus. When moving at game speed, mistakes will happen and that is exactly what you want. Don't overcoach but rather let them put the puzzle together. If the mistake is continuously repeated, that's when certain drills can be intervened for correction. Even a game like ultimate Frisbee or handball is a great way to develop agility.

Here's some pretty athletic moves coming from the ultimate frisbee world

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