In April I had the privilege of coaching 20 of the best high school linebackers in Texas and Louisiana. This was a very talented group of athletes. Whether it was dropping into zone coverage to defend a pass play or cover a running back man to man, they all exhibited a high level of multidirectional speed.
Coaching Insight #1 – The number one quality in athletics is movement. Competing at any level of athletics is impossible without the ability to move in multiple directions at high speeds. This includes physical and decision making competence.
Reactive agility & change of direction movement are the two components of multi-directional speed. They are often used interchangeably when in fact they are different. Change of direction movement is when an athlete is asked to run in a single pattern or multi-directional pattern sequence. The athlete has an understanding of the drill demands, as there is no reactive component. A linebacker reacting to a running back in a man-to-man coverage drill is a reactive agility-based speed movement. It requires the defender to move through a pattern sequence and make a reactive decision based on the running backs spontaneous movement. This is what I call “Game Speed”.
Coaching Insight #2 – In order to improve multi-directional speed, athletes must learn and practice a balance of fundamental movements, change of direction and reactive agility drills. Here is a sequence of drills performed daily in our program.
We teach an athletic stance that’s allows athletes to move forward, backward, laterally and rotationally. This base position helps athletes position the feet and load the hips so they can move forward, backward, laterally and rotationally. This is the position they will land in and/or transition into before moving in other directions. Every successful movement begins with great body position.
We perform fundamental drills to improve deceleration, acceleration and transitioning. We focus on the correcting the position of the torso, hips, inside and outside leg.
Change of Direction Drills
We combine movement skills into multi-directional patterns. An example would be asking an athlete to shuffle for a short distance, crossover and sprint. This is similar to a base runner trying to steal second base. Here the athlete accelerates laterally, transitions rotationally and accelerates forward.
Reactive Agility Drills
These drills require both efficiency in movement and decision making abilities. Sport can be organized chaos at times. Athletes can strain the motor system when making a decision on the field, which can slow down reaction time. This is why we include reactive agility drills in our program. The more often an athlete has the opportunity to make decisions the easier it becomes.
Athleticism becomes apparent when an athlete has to move in space to evade or defend an opponent. In our summer program we break down complex movements into learnable segments. Athletes become faster, move more efficiently and reduce potential for injury.