Use It or Lose It!
As the summer comes to an end and sport seasons start, I like to remind coaches not to stop doing speed drills and skills during the season. Too many times I have seen coaches start teaching strategies of the game and positions, but they forget that they need athletes to perform athletic skills as well as sports skills. There are more and more coaches teaching or doing speed and agility training in the off-season, but we must fall back on one basic principle: Use it or lose it! The human body is one great big program that needs reinforcement.
by Scott M. Phelps | Sep 2009
There are a number of simple ways to interject speed skills into practices for reinforcement during the season. One is simply to apply the knowledge that in easy drills athletes must create a power position with their lower body. This would include focusing on knee recovery in front of the body. Anytime an athlete picks a foot up off the ground they should be able to see their knees in front of them. If they cannot see their knee it is in the wrong position and cannot assist in producing a big force against the ground to move the body in a positive manner.
Another simple tip to apply to every drill at all times in practice is the toe-up position, or dorsiflexion. This is cocking and loading the ankle so the foot is at ALL TIMES ready to push off the ground. Either with the foot in the air or on the ground, positioning the athlete in this loaded stance will increase force applied and decrease foot contact time. Foot contact time is equaled to braking force. You cannot or move the body mass effectively if you spend a large quantity of time on the brakes.
One of the most common questions we get after finishing a camp is how do we do all of this in practice? The simple answer is that you donít. You use bits and pieces so there is plenty of time to work on sport/position skills and game strategies. The most optimal place to continue to work on movement/speed skills is during warm-up. If you use the dynamic flexibility program that warms, stretches, and reinforces skills all at once you gain a world of speed without losing any practice time. Doing this allows you to then pick one or two speed drills for the day and then move on to other sport needs.
Our dynamic flexibility program is called preparation time, because this period of time is to prepare the body for the demands of the greater stress called practice. Therefore, the better prepared the body is after this time period, the greater success can theoretically be achieved during practice sessions. I think we can all agree that the more positively practices go, the greater the chance of positive skills showing up in competition. We feel that this preparation time reinforcing movement skills through full range of motion will increase the muscle recruitment as well as the muscle memory of skills needed to maintain speed and agility movements that will need to be retained all season long.
In summary, it takes only 3 simple steps to reinforce your speed skills all season long. These are creating power through proper knee recovery, loading the ankle at all times, and reinforcing speed and movement techniques during your preparation time. After a great off-season training has taken place, donít give in to the law of diminishing returns and expect that as the season progresses you just naturally will get slower. This does not need to be true! Finish strong this summer and continue to benefit from that hard work all season long.
If you need help incorporating speed drills into your practices using preparation time, see our DVD on Flexibility and Stretching at this link: http://www.speedquest.net/SFV-010.html