What is the key ingredient missing from this speed training session? REST! When any athlete is being trained to develop pure speed, the most common element needs to be rest. All the great speed coaches out there emphasize letting their athletes get thoroughly recovered after a sprint before another sprint is executed. A common rule of thumb used by the top of the line speed coaches is one minute of rest for every 10 yards sprinted. As an example, an athlete doing a series of 40 yard sprints who truly wants to improve speed should have 4 minutes of rest between sprints. To many people, that may seem excessive, but the body needs to be extremely close to 100% recovered to make any meaningful gains in pure speed development. In most sessions I witness, rest periods are much shorter than this and endurance is brought into the equation too much to make speed development possible. There is nothing wrong with a coach having athletes run sprints with short rest periods as a form of higher intensity endurance training, but if pure speed acquisition is the desired goal: think REST!
I have been around youth sports for many years now and I still get the opportunity to work with youth athletes in one on one and team environments. I am also able to talk to many of their coaches for whom they play for. The one thing that they tell me almost every time I talk to them is how many of their players have a lot of natural talent, but are very RAW with the talent they have. To me, this simply means that this talent is simply not being recognized in their athletic endeavor.
I just had the opportunity a week ago to work with an AAU basketball team made up of high school freshmen and sophomores. This particular group up to this point in their athletic career has had modest success. I also get a chance to work with a high school varsity team made up of all juniors and seniors who have had tremendous success and have won 3 league championships in a row. The funny thing about this is I truly believe after working with each group that the younger AAU team is a more athletic group than the much more successful varsity team. How can this be? I am sure the coaching of the game may have something to do with it. The one thing that I definitely can pinpoint from my point of view is that the athleticism “skills” of the older group are far better than the more athletic younger group. They run with better technique. They shuffle, backpedal, and change direction much more fluidly and smoothly. Their body control and coordination of movement patterns is much more advanced. The only difference with these groups is that the older varsity group had 2 years of regular, concentrated, high quality athleticism development under their belt, whereas the younger AAU group was basically just starting to go through this type of training modality.
This example of how a group of youth athletes who have every bit as much, if not more, raw ability than a more successful group, but aren’t nearly as successful, is a common one. I believe the solution to not have this occur is for the coach of any team to take initiative and teach the players a good foundation of fundamental athleticism skill development that focuses not on “conditioning” the athletes by only having them run aimlessly back and forth and doing agility drills just for the sake of doing them, but emphasizes the technique, grace, skill, and preciseness of athletic movements such as speed, multi-directional agility, and explosive jumping. This type of training done on a regular basis does wonders for the ability of the athletes and the success of the team.
Simply put, turning the RAW athlete into a highly SKILLED one is well worth the effort and just might be the biggest difference maker for the success of the athlete and team that there is!