As fans of sports and coaches of athletes, we tune in daily to see amazing feats of athleticism. However, agility is a major contributor to these “feats”. There are three important agility training components: acceleration, deceleration, and balance.
The athlete’s ability to accelerate and decelerate both linearly and laterally is necessary to compete and excel in most sports. Most sports involve organized chaos, including rapid speed of play, performance in confined areas, and continuous unpredictability, which make agility essential to athletic success.
Performance ties speed and agility. We must be careful defining speed in certain terms. Since peak velocity or top-end speed are achieved with limited opportunities in any given sport, it is the athlete’s agility and multi-directional skill/speed that is likely to have more impact on nearly every play.
The athlete’s ability to change speed and attain peak velocity will impact change of direction skill. Therefore, athlete’s that are quick to the ball will have the ability to stay ahead of opponents majority of the time. First-step quickness can be a vital tool in helping the athlete position themselves appropriately to make plays.
While coaches will spend an exorbitant amount of time working and designing programming to improve athlete’s peak linear speed, deceleration is a critical skill that is vital to athletic performance. While top end speed is important for getting the athlete from point A to point B as fast as possible, it is the athlete’s ability to quickly decrease speed that will allow the athlete to efficiently change directions in sport.
Dynamic balance is the ability to maintain control of the body while in motion. We view static balance in relation to everyday activities of daily life. Dynamic balance comes into play with much more complexity in relation to activities of sport. Therefore, it’s vital that it is viewed with individualized attention to detail. Kinesthetic cues, visual reference, and challenges to proprioception are utilized to challenge an athlete in quickly changing environments of sport. Balance requires the athlete to control and manipulate their center of mass over their base of support while rapidly changing body position.
The Ladder is a basic tool coaches can use to improve agility.
Here are some basic agility drills you can use to improve your athletes agility skill sets:
Linear Agility Drills
- Single or Double foot step in
- Single = one foot in each rung
- Double = jumps
Lateral Agility Drills
- Basic shuffle
- Both feet in each rung
Multidirectional Agility Drills
- Zig Zags/Slalom
- One-foot contacts outside the rung on each side
Agility Drill Frequency
The number of speed and agility workouts per week should range between once to three non-consecutive days per week, with the lower range reserved for skill acquisition and movement sequencing. The high intensity explosive nature of theses drills requires that they performed early in an athletes training session. A recovery period of 48-72 hours is optimal for recovery. The volume for speed and agility training can be determined by the duration of time spent working in a specific energy system.
- Beginner athlete – 15-30 Seconds (70% and below – max intensity)
- Intermediate athlete – 10 seconds and below (90% and above – Max effort)
- Advanced athlete – 10-60 Seconds (75% – 90% of max intensity)
Here a few bonus tips for improving agility. First, progress the drills based on increasing speed of movements, complexity of the tasks required, direction of movements, and introducing external resistance. The drills can be predetermined patterns (Closed), the athlete is informed of the expected task. Or they can be reactive (Open), the athlete reacts to unexpected cues. Lastly, implement changes to base of support to challenge dynamic balance and improve agility.