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Speed and Agility Training for Youth Athletes
By Tom Hoffman
“You can’t teach speed”. It’s a favorite refrain of coaches in all sports, at all levels. But this old cliché is not only stale. It’s wrong. In fact, not only is it possible to teach young athletes speed and agility, it’s downright fundamental.
Success and failure come down to fractions of inches: Did your athlete snag that ground ball hit up the middle? Did they get the step on the defender to unleash their shot? Were they able to close out and block/deflect the shot? Did they run down that forehand volley? The answer to these questions is how we gauge our kids’ performance, and more importantly, it is also how high school, college, and club/travel coaches are evaluating your child. For this reason, in the ultra-competitive world of youth sports, it’s become clear that the fraction of a second difference is why teaching speed and agility is paramount.
Speed and Agility training comes in many varieties. However, it can and should be tailored to the specific movements found in your athlete’s sport. It’s not enough to just focus on linear speed by running wind sprints. After all, except for Track athletes, your athlete will not play a game where someone screams: “On Your Marks, Get Set, Go!” and expects them to run fast in a straight line. Instead, teaching athletes “unrehearsed” movements, change of direction, and associated cuts and is what will make the difference that you and the coaches will see on the field/court.
While all Youth Athletes should be taught proper running form: Posture, Arm Swing, Leg Drive, to increase their overall speed, it’s the sports-specific movements that show up during the games. Learning the techniques to maximize explosion in their Lateral Quickness (think defending in basketball and soccer), the Crossover Step (think stealing bases and ranging for ground balls), and the ability to Reaccelerate (think any stopping, starting, change of direction), to name a few, is not only the key piece to improve performance, but is vital to creating durability and preventing injury, helping your athlete reach their potential.