“SKILLED” Speed & Agility Training

Athletes at the youth level all the way through the professional ranks are always looking for ways to get faster, quicker, and more agile. There are numerous ways to go about achieving these needed qualities to improve athletic performance. Sprint, cone, and reaction drills are being done in a variety of ways to get the bodies of these athletes to get a step faster, or react a bit quicker. While I like most of the drills I see coaches have their athletes do in this regard, the one thing that I believe lacks in these training sessions is coaching the detailed skills and coordination that comes with these movements.

Any speed and agility movement that athletes perform should be broken down as a coordinated skill that needs to be broken down by the coach in detail and taught as such. One thing I see constantly are sport skills being taught with great detail, but when it comes to general athletic movements like sprinting, shuffling, backpedaling, changing direction, etc… the detailed approach to teaching them goes out the window. In reality, these movements are skills just as any sport skill like throwing a ball,  swinging a bat, or shooting a basket are.

As an example of this, let’s take a speed session where we will have our athletes perform a series of sprints to get faster. Let’s say that we decide to have the athletes run six 30-yard sprints. What I see a lot in this scenario are coaches who line their athletes up, encourage them to run hard, blow a whistle to get them started, and try to hurry through them to get them done as fast as possible. There are many errors with this approach and while it does some good for the fitness of the athletes, it does very little to improve speed and teach these athletes proper speed technique.

Sprinting cues before each sprint is ran should be emphasized to focus the athletes mind on certain techniques that they should be concentrating on. It could be a lower body cue such as “punch the knee” or “push down and back through the ground”. It could also be an upper body cue such as “elbows down and back” or “chest tall when in top end phase”. Now the athletes have a focus on the actual skills of developing speed and can run these sprints with a detailed plan of working on them to get faster. Also, there is a rule in speed training which states that if speed acquisition is the desired goal for the day, then for every 10 yards sprinted, one minute of rest is needed. Hurrying athletes to finish these sprints to teach toughness or live by the “no pain, no gain” theory is counter productive to get athletes faster.

Taking a coordinated skills approach to teaching speed and agility is a solid way of improving athletes. When the variables of total volume of workout and rest in between repetitions are also thought out correctly, athletes are now in a situation where they can improve greatly and enjoy the process of becoming the best athlete they can be.

The Fundamentally Sound QB – Don’t Cross The Line!

All of you readers are probably well aware that the QB position is one that has multiple fundamental skills. All of these fundamentals whether they be throwing mechanics, footwork, reading defensive coverage, route progressions, etc… are important for a QB to learn how to do through knowledge and endless repetition. One of the problems that I see with many QB development instructional camps is the concept of fundamentals being developed at the expense of the big picture. Throwing mechanics are isolated to such an extreme that it has zero carryover to a live game situation. I also see this happen with learning the reading of defensive coverages and  route progressions. It is broken down in such a way as to be knowledgeable about what it consists of, but not taught in an applicable way for normal live situations.

I obviously believe that fundamentals are very important, but being fundamentally sound just for the sake of that in itself doesn’t do any QB any good. QB fundamentals should be fairly elementary to execute and repeat in even the toughest, most intense game like conditions. If a QB feels like what they are trying to learn feels nearly impossible to perform and takes too much conscious thought, then the instructor has very likely “crossed the line” and has became too fundamental.

For many things in life, I always thought the secret to success is to keep it simple and get great at these simple things. The QB position is no different!

Athletic Development Training: How Much Is Enough?

The journey of pursuing to become a successful athlete is a challenging one. All of the team practice time involved along with self-improvement activities that are necessary to become the best athletic version of yourself can take a toll time-wise and physically. The question I get from many parents who inquire about hiring a trainer to help with athletic development is, “How much time is enough for my son/daughter to workout besides his/her own team practice?”. My answer is always the same…”it depends”.

What does it depend on? There are many different components that come into the equation to answer this. How much athletic development training, if any, is being done within their team setting? Is your son/daughter currently playing games in-season or is it the off season? How motivated is your son/daughter to want to strive to be the best athlete he/she can be? All of these questions carry weight and need to be discussed before making any type of decision to pursue athletic development training outside of their team setting.

Generally speaking, to answer this “How Much Is Enough?” question, I want to first say that whatever athletic development training that takes place outside of team activities, it needs to be short in duration and high in quality. Long, drawn out sessions that usually over-emphasize aerobic training are pointless and un-motivating. Shorter, highly organized sessions that cut out the unnecessary and only apply the essential areas of becoming a better, more functional athlete need to be the basis of the program. Two to three quality 30 to 45 minute sessions per week that cover mobility, speed/acceleration, agility/quickness, strength, power, body control, coordination, etc… is IMO the sweet spot for solid athleticism development to take place. If an athlete is in-season, adjusting to one or two sessions per week would be recommended. The key thing here is “quality”. As mentioned earlier, the workouts should be high in quality and shorter in duration.

The Athletic Quarterback

Back when I was a youngster and getting interested in football, I would go to the local high school and watch their football practice. At that time in my life, I didn’t really know enough about football to know what I was looking at, but I do remember seeing a bunch of football players working their butts off in various types of drills, and over to the side there were the QB’s just playing catch. This seemed to be a common theme I saw each time I was out there (maybe this was why I became a QB when I played lol). Obviously, the perception of the position of Quarterback has changed considerably over the years. The styles of offense incorporated in the game today make the athletic component of being an effective QB very important.

If someone were to allow me to rename the position, I would choose “Quarterbathletic”. Having a good throwing arm, pocket presence, a thorough understanding of the offense, and making great decisions has always been and will always be major parts of playing the position effectively, but more and more each year the areas of speed, quickness, elusiveness, explosiveness, strength are a part of the QB success equation.

Most of you know that I train youth/high school QB’s and each session that they are a part of will have an athletic development component and a football skill component. Here is an example of the athletic component of one of our workouts we do. This is high school QB Alejandro H. and 2 receivers going through outdoor warmup, power, agility, and strength work:

Here is that same trio going through the football skill portion:

Going beyond football skill work and incorporating athleticism training to develop QB’s to be successful is mandatory. This type of training on a consistent basis will give any QB, regardless of the level he plays at, the best chance for field success when it matters most!

The Art Of Youth Athlete Speed Training

Any coach will tell you that speed is a very important part of a team’s winning formula. While I will admit that speed is a highly genetic trait, there is no doubt that proper speed training is necessary for any athlete to make major improvements with his/her speed. What does an effective speed training program look like? The answer may not be one exact thing, but there are definite characteristics that separate quality speed training programs from average to poor ones. Here is my interpretation of what those effective characteristics are:

1. THOROUGH WARMUP – With any athletic endeavor, warmup needs to be mandatory and the more thorough it is in warming the muscles, joints, and ligaments up as well as increasing the body temperature, the more effective the workout will be. Here is a video of one of my former college athlete clients, Taylor, going through such a warmup:

2. SPECIFIC SPEED DRILLS – Just running back and forth as fast as you can without a plan is a road to nowhere as far as improving speed. Specific drills in the areas of skipping, bounding, and sprinting with proper cueing are necessary to fortify the athlete with the knowledge to understand and execute proper movement mechanics. Here is Taylor going through such a program:

3. MULTI-DIRECTIONAL DRILLS – In most sports, running from point A to point B is not always a straight line. Great speed training programs also consist of multi directional movements, deceleration, and change of direction skills. Once again, here is Taylor doing a series of these “agility” movements at one of her workouts:

4. STRENGTH TRAINING – Speed has a large strength component to it. Great speed technique alone can only get you so far. The body must be able to apply great amounts of force through the ground in an efficient manner to improve speed. Overall body strength trained through basic multi-joint movement patterns (squat, lunge, hinge, push, pull) on a regular basis is necessary to maximize one’s speed. Taylor shows us such a workout:

Make no mistake about it, speed is very difficult to improve. It takes a well thought out plan over the long haul to make it happen. Having such a plan that includes warmup, specific speed drills, multi-directional movements, and strength training is a great way for any athlete to achieve speed gains and become faster.

Qualities of the Competitive High School Quarterback

Being successful at the quarterback position on the high school football field takes many qualities. Here are my top 8 qualities I believe are absolutely essential for any quarterback to have to achieve success:

1. PASSION- He has to love everything about playing the position.

2. WORK ETHIC- He has to be willing to put in the work required on a consistent basis to be successful.

3. COACHABILITY- He has to be able to listen and receive coaching feedback in a constructive manner at all times.

4. LEADERSHIP- Whether vocally or by example, he has to be able to positively influence others to do and be their best.

5. COMPETITIVE DESIRE- He has to enjoy competing against others and have a desire to succeed, especially against opponents who are very talented and good at what they do.

6. EMOTIONALLY MATURE- He can handle the emotional highs and lows of playing the position with class and poise.

7. HIGHLY ATHLETIC- He has to execute all of the physical components of the position at a high level

8. HIGHLY SKILLED- He has to have a high proficiency of the skills and mechanics of the quarterback position and be able to execute them well.

When working with young QB’s, I am always referring to these 8 qualities. Most QB’s are naturally good at some of these and not so much at others. It is my job to bring all of these qualities to his attention and make sure he has a good understanding on each one’s importance.

The Precious Commodity Of Fitness

Many things are important in a quality fitness regimen: strength, mobility, flexibility, endurance, calorie and fat burning activities, etc.. but the one area that is by far the most important and what I refer to as the precious commodity of fitness is MOTIVATION! Without motivation to get fit, all the other important areas of fitness are irrelevant.

I believe it is rather easy to initially get motivated for fitness and I see this play out in most people all of the time. It could be that they don’t like what they see in the mirror and want to change that. It could be a health condition they have where a fitness program will help clear up. Maybe they want to take part in a physical event in the future that forces them to have to train to get ready for it. All of these initial motivations happen with many people on a daily basis and it is great to see these people get motivated to start.

BUT as the title to this article suggests, motivation is a precious commodity. Once one has it, it needs to be nurtured and protected. This, by far, is the most abused area of fitness that people go through. This high level of initial motivation comes to a complete stop usually because of bad programming. The workouts are too hard, take too long, or a combination of both. Sometimes this initial excitement leads to too many workouts per week which leads to complete burnout in a short amount of time. All of this happens much too often and is very sad to see play out.

The area of fitness that I am most dialed into as a trainer is understanding that motivation for fitness is a very precious thing. I need to do everything that I can to keep this motivation sky high for a client to keep their path to get fit going down a steady road. Here is a list of 5 things that go into keeping the precious commodity of  fitness motivation at a high level:

1.) Keep the number of intense workouts per week at 3 or less. Simply put, too many workouts too often leads to staleness and burnout.

2.) Keep each workout short in duration. 2 hour marathon workouts will chip away at even the most motivated people. 45 minutes or less per workout is ideal.

3.) Workouts need to be fortified with “intelligent intensity“. Doing set after set of intense exercises with no rest will burn out any fitness client. Longer rest periods between sets and reps are very important to keep a steady flow of quality workout time and motivation high. Also the length of the exercise itself needs to be realistic. 20 to 30 seconds of squat jumps is a much better option than 5 minutes of them. This is where the art and science of training are critical.

4.) Workouts should be regimented, but also contain variety. Nobody wants to do the exact same workout all of the time, but there should be some similarity from workout to workout for the client to get in a comfort zone and stay confident. The balance of regimen and variety in a fitness plan is an important one.

5.) Exercises should have levels of difficulty from beginner to advanced. Each client has unique levels of fitness ability and being able to match their ability to the appropriate exercise level needs to be constantly monitored.

Motivation is number 1 when it comes to a client having success in fitness. These 5 things should be a part of any fitness plan to keep the precious commodity of motivation at a high level.

Do You Have A Long Term Fitness Approach?

Millions of people aspire to have fitness be a part of their lives and most of these people do, but only dabble in it from time to time. The most common scenario is a person wanting to get fit, and starting on some type of regimen, but after a few weeks, it comes to an end,. A few weeks pass and then this same cycle starts again, with usually the same result happening. These people are left frustrated and thinking that an ideal long term plan is non-existent.

All though having a long term fitness plan is very possible, it takes some thought and planning on how to best bring it about. Here are 4 things to heavily consider when designing your long term fitness program:

1. DON’T PUT YOUR MOTIVATION IN JEOPARDY: When people set out to get fit, there is an excitement to it. This excitement usually leads to over-training which weighs heavily on one being able to keep their motivation at a high level. Motivation, by far, is the most important factor in one partaking in a long term fitness program and it needs to be high to do so. Keeping the volume of training at the proper level is important for this motivation to remain high.

2. DON’T TRAIN TOO MANY DAYS: Simply put, the body needs rest, especially when going through an intense fitness regimen. While there is no exact amount of days per week that is correct, a logical rule of thumb is “3” hard workouts a week and 1 to 2 recovery/leisure workouts in addition. In other words, a good amount of rest is needed between workouts and should be planned.

3. DON’T TRAIN TOO LONG: The stories about 2 to 3 hour training sessions in the gym with half being cardio and the other half weights shouldn’t be part of your story. At most, 45 minutes of total exercise including warmup and cool down is plenty.

4. USE WORKOUTS THAT ARE FUN, KEEP YOU HEALTHY, AND GIVE YOU RESULTS: Getting results in weight loss, muscle gain, moving better, more energy, etc… are the reason most people workout in the first place. Find the right workout type that is fun for you to do and also do it in a way so you will stay healthy, and gain the greatest benefits from.

The most ultimate fitness regimen is one that plans for the long term. Keeping these 4 things in mind when designing your long term fitness regimen will help you greatly in getting and keeping you fit over the long haul.

The Ideal Client

I have done this “training athletes” thing for many years now. After some training sessions, you feel terrific about what just transpired. In other sessions, you feel like you weren’t able to get through to the athlete as well as needed to make a difference. Most trainers, if not all of them, would much rather have that first scenario happen all of the time and never have the second one occur. How can we get to that point? As much as I want to help every athlete, I believe a screening process of some sort has to take place to get the type of athletes to your sessions that you can truly make a difference with.

What are the key characteristics they should have? Here is my list:

– an appreciation of athletic training (they understand that the development of speed, agility, strength, power, etc. is an important one to improve their sports performance)

– maturity to listen and be coachable (it is impossible to help anyone who doesn’t want to be taught. The athlete who is able to focus and take coaching in is exciting to work with)

– a solid work ethic (training for athleticism is tough work and only a strong desire to put the work in will lead to the benefits and improvements desired)

– role models that have done this type of training before (these usually are older athletes who have a history of participating in this type of training, succeeding in it,
and are well known because of that)

As a trainer, you want more than anything to make a big positive impact on an athlete’s life. This is why we do what we do. To have this happen on a more regular basis, a screening process of some sort needs to occur to truly know if what you offer can help the athlete.

Sports Or Athletics?

I remember when I was much younger, the term “athletics” was used much more often than it is now in reference to sports play. A common question was “do you participate in athletics?”. The similar question nowadays is simply, “do you play sports?”

I never thought much of this until the last few years when I concentrated all of my coaching energy into training athletes. I like the term “athletics” as I believe it gives a much better representation of what sports are truly all about. In this day and age of youth sport specialization, the development of sports skills in youth athletes has become what everyone is pursuing. Although there is nothing wrong with pursuing improved sport skill development, it has become such a priority at the expense of what is every bit, if not more important of a quality to acquire: “athleticism”.

I strongly believe we need to have more coaches truly believe in programming more athletic development type activities in practice such as speed and agility work, flexibility and mobility exercise, and strength and power development. A nice blend of skill work and athletic development work would do wonders for all athletes at any level. Keeping it simple and mastering the basics in athleticism might not seem a big deal to most, but IMHO it would be worth its weight in gold!

Youth coaches, do the right thing! Program more athletic development into your practice sessions. It is worth the time to do so and not only would it help your team in the short term, but would set the foundation for your athletes in the long term and beyond.

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