Saturday, August 29, 2015

Why Your Speed and Agility Program Doesn't Work...

The past year my career has taken a bit of a detour and while I fought it like crazy early on it was essential for my long-term growth as a coach and person.

Two recent notes that I received from folks whom I have coached with/for in the past few years really drove home the importance of sticking with your principles and not wavering to outside perception.

How this relates back to my current career path…

Sometimes you have to step away to see what kind of foundation you have left behind. I have received several notes in recent months that really affirmed that the work I was doing in the community was effective, and more importantly it was durable.

While I have always attempted to be a humble person in my professional career I did want to use the message that resonated consistently from these notes to reinforce a coaching philosophy that is in short supply these days.

While I am not currently coaching young athletes in large groups (at least for the moment) I have maintained and continue to develop relationships with young people. I want to know what’s going on in their lives; socially, academically and of course athletically.

For the purpose of this discussion focus on the speed and agility training many young athletes are currently being exposed to.

Many schools and clubs bring in hired “guns” to take their athletes through what amounts to a torture fest!

Most athletes have not been taught the fundamentals of speed, agility and quickness (SAQ) training. Sports such as baseball, soccer, and tennis all require fundamental sport skills that are essential for the long-term mastery of the sport. There are also fundamental athletic skills that must be developed prior to implementing advanced SAQ techniques/drills.

Often kids are exposed to drills that are to advanced for their current athletic “comprehension” and conditioning level. Any “coach” or “trainer” can make a kid tired but the key question that must be asked is can they actually make them better over the long haul?

Throwing down speed ladders, elaborate cone drills, or strapping kids to bungee cords or parachutes looks cool and it will impress parents but these “toys” are nothing more than a Trojan Horse that hides poor coaching and the utter lack of a developmental plan.

If you were to watch one of my SAQ camps/clinics you would notice 4 things:
1.     Kids are having and expressing athletic creativity and freedom
2.     Kids aren’t throwing up and I am not screaming at them
3.     Kids aren’t running more than 40 yards in a straight line
4.     Kids are training fast in short bursts that last only a few seconds at a time

Things that you should not see at Team Sports SAQ training:

1.     Yelling at kids because the coach implemented drills that the athletes aren’t “getting” is not on the kids it’s on the coach for either not coaching the drill well or the drill is to advanced for a majority of the athletes. This type of SAQ training is a great way to teach an athlete how to ride the breaks, it will make them think too much and their movements will be deliberate and robotic! The opposite of speed is actually occurring, but kids are resilient and their innate skills can oftentimes counteract bad training. But imagine the difference that could be had in their performance with better training? That would be awesome to see!
2.     Putting athletes through extreme survival of the fittest workouts.  These programs don’t make kids “tough,” it will only make them tired while they will get better at “cheating” on techniques just to “survive the drill!
3.     Track SAQ, training young athletes to run in straight line for 40 plus yards rarely happens in team sports.  Sports SAQ mainly consists of repeated short burst efforts of maximal acceleration, deceleration and reacceleration from multiple directions and angles. Drills should last only a few seconds, anything longer than that and it becomes a conditioning drill. While conditioning is an important factor and has a time and place in a well-designed performance program it’s not the goal of SAQ training, making athletes faster is THE goal!

Are my methods effective?

Consider this note that I received from a parent of a former athlete whom I last coached over 3 summers ago:

“M still credits your agility training for helping him (at over 6 foot tall as a high school sophomore) best much smaller kinds on the lacrosse field with speed and quick footwork.”

A local varsity basketball coach shared this after winning their second consecutive league title:

“It has been a lot of hard work and dedication and you definitely helped our players achieve this.”

I had not worked with this coaches’ program for a full calendar year when I received that note.

The point of sharing this is not to boost my credibility but rather to show that by mastering the fundamentals and committing to doing things the right way you can have a powerful and long-lasting impact on the performance and lives of young people.

At times I raise my voice to get the attention of the athletes and at times “tough love” is necessary at times but first he coach must earn that right by proving to the kids through is or her actions that they deeply care about them as human beings first and foremost. This “care” often shines through when you take the time to TEACH them the how and why behind skill acquisition. Teaching is a process and it takes time to develop the relationships and trust that are essential to bringing out the best in any young athlete.

Recruiting a hired gun to “beat the kids up” is not only ineffective; it’s a waste of organizational funds.  Save yourself some time and money by first getting to know your team and showing them how much you care and then they will work hard for you! And remember to keep the SAQ training short, fast and fun!

If you want kids to be fast then let them play fast! We are the ones that need to slow down and pay attention...

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