5 Biggest Mistakes in Speed & Agility Training (and how to avoid them)

Below is a message I e-mailed to thousands of families that participate in any kind of sport inside our sports complex, Total Sports Complex in Wixom.  For many of you, it may seem like very basic information, but through many conversations with parents, athletes and even coaches, I felt like it was necessary to write.
Kids Speed TrainingAs much as the sports training business has advanced over the past 10-15 years, it’s still important to educate the public about what we’re doing, because there are still still a lot of misconceptions.
So, if you learn something from this, great.  If, however, you’d like to take this message and spread it to your community, feel free to copy & paste it, edit it or re-write it to suits your needs.  I certainly don’t need any credit for it, so just make it sound like it’s from you and put your name on it so you become the “educator” in your area.
I hope it helps.
As sports performance training becomes more and more popular, it has also become more and more mis-understood.   It seems that a lot people think that running through the agility ladder for 15 minutes once a week and doing some push-ups and sit-ups is going to deliver results.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  It sure would be nice if we could put minimal time and effort into something and derive incredible results, but it doesn’t happen.  Our muscular and nervous systems simply don’t adapt and change that quickly and easily.  Our body doesn’t want to change.  It wants to stay the same because that’s much easier than changing.
Making a change – whether that’s getting stronger, faster, quicker, etc. – requires quite a bit of consistent effort.
To get meaningful results from a sports performance training program, you have to commit at least two days a week for at least 6-8 weeks, usually longer.
Learning proper sprinting mechanics, for example, is a process that requires our nervous system to learn new firing patterns.  Like learning any new skill, this requires a lot of repetition in an effort to teach your nervous system you want to move differently.  It usually takes a few weeks of consistent practice just to break old habits, but it takes another 6-10 weeks to turn these new movement patterns into what are called Motor Engrams.  A Motor Engram is a nervous system pathway that takes any thought out of the action – your body just knows how to do it.
That’s what we always strive for because athletes shouldn’t be thinking about how to run in the middle of a game.
With this in mind, here are the 5 mistakes I see made most often:
1.       Infrequent Training – Training once a week is better than not training at all, but you’re simply not going to get quality results from infrequent training.  If you all you can do is train once a week, that’s better than nothing.  Unfortunately, each time you miss one of those workouts, it really sets you back.  Haphazard scheduling will deliver poor results.
2.       Lack of Feedback/Instruction – Feedback and instruction are the most crucial elements of speed training.  If you’re not performing the movements with correct mechanics, you’re simply reinforcing the same mistakes you’re trying to correct.  That doesn’t make any sense.
Would you practice your sport with poor technique?  Would a coach ever watch you practice and not give you feedback and instruction?  The answer to both questions is NO.
The same should hold true for speed and agility training.  Having a qualified and experienced coach working with you makes a huge difference in the quality and efficiency of your training.
The biggest problem here is that athletes end up thinking that training (in general) doesn’t work, and they get discouraged or quit.  The truth is that without good coaching, training doesn’t work very well.  You might get tired, but the results you’re hoping for (being faster or quicker) aren’t going to be realized.  Fortunately, quality coaching can change this and deliver great results.
3.       Non-Specific Training – I see a lot of coaches and athletes simply running through drills they see on YouTube or Nike commercial.  While On field sports training exercisethis is better than nothing, using toys like an agility ladder or hurdles is nothing more than general fitness and conditioning if you’re not choosing the correct drills and doing them with maximum intensity.  Make sure you are great at the movements you have to do on the field, not just random drills.
When do you ever perform anything close to a ladder drill on the field?  Never.  So, don’t spend a lot of time on this when you could spend your time and energy perfecting the movements you actually use such as accelerating, decelerating, cutting, sprinting, turning and jumping with great mechanics.
4.       Incomplete Programming & Progressions – Like I alluded to above, 15 minutes of training simply isn’t enough for most athletes to make meaningful progress in their overall athleticism.  Running though a few drills at the beginning of practice is nothing more than a glorified warm-up.  You probably need to do more work and progress into more difficult drills as you improve.
Going through a comprehensive evaluation will help you determine your specific needs and help you create a program to work on your limitations.  You may need to add strength training or mobility work to your program or move on to more complex drills.
5.  Inconsistency – College and professional athletes continue to improve their speed and athleticism by training consistently throughout the year.  You don’t see them train for a couple of months, then stop for a couple months.  They are consistently performing speed, agility, strength and mobility drills in order to make constant improvements.  It takes several weeks of consistent training to see the benefits, but it only takes a couple weeks to start losing it.
(At the end, I put a plug in for our programs and a special we’re running.  I encourage you to do the same.  You want to educate, then offer a solution (training with you) so the reader has a way to solve their problem.)
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