At the beginning of Summer, I talked about hurdle drills to be done for acceleration and then ladder drills to be done for quickness. More recently, I discussed the one track drill you really must do in the summer and the one drill that really helps acceleration.
You have more than likely picked up on the face we ALWAYS do speed breaks.
Since I’ve given you specific drills that are staples of the King Sports program - drills we ALWAYS do in speed training - I wanted to ensure the details that make all those effective are not neglected. These are the “basics” that we never leave that you should always do.
These aren’t the broad things like the speed training themes I always base the programming on. These are the disciplines you should instill in your athletes that help them be excellent on a personal level and help their training be efficient.
It’s really easy to assume everybody is always doing these things, but there are enough small elements to where oversight happens. In the flurry of group training especially, the coach to athlete ratio alone might cause these to be forgotten since a coach can’t see everything.
Some may be mentioned from time to time, but let’s cover five things I always do in speed training. They may need to be echoed once a week or maybe even just once a month, but you’ll know it when you see it.
This may sound broad, but it’s actually specific.
Do they know the mini hurdles get set at a three-foot spacing? Do they know which direction the hurdle faces? As funny as it sounds, I’ve seen plenty of times where a single hurdle gets knocked down, an athlete walks back, and sets it back up the wrong way or puts it one foot off.
Do they know the standard distance between cones for primary drills like the shuttle or L-drill? The pro-agility shuttle is usually five yards, and if you have the space for that, great. However, what if your training space is limited? You may need to condense your drills to four yards between cones and your athletes need to be aware to assist with setup properly.
Do they know how to put on certain belts? I’ve used belts before that have velcro and two different rings; younger athletes get confused which belt is which. When time is valuable, it’s worth clearing up the confusion on the front end so the problem doesn’t persist every time you do the drill.
Do they know how to choose the proper weight if running with a med ball? This may be more prevalent with younger athletes but often times, they will get a bigger, heavier med ball that isn’t age-appropriate. Since the med ball is intended simply to take away the arms, it doesn’t have to be as heavy as possible. Don’t let them use a ball that compromises the drill, especially running mechanics.
Overall, these things help the flow of training. Like most things, you’ll typically run into these issues with less experienced athletes. The goal should always be to educate so that kids are put in a position to be successful.
This approach isn’t even relegated to amateurs. If you caught any of Hard Knocks with the Detroit Lions this year, in one episode, the head coach, Dan Campbell, had the players lead one of the training camp practices. The bottom line? It’s about ownership, something I’ve talked about before being important to a program.
On an apparatus like the hurdles, being set correctly is incredibly important. When using equipment like belts and straps, being set correctly becomes a safety measure.
Being set correctly and taking that first step is what is important. The easiest way to improve first step is to focus on it. Take the time to get set and start fast. Oftentimes, when kids are going through the motions, they won’t always get set on the hurdles. A jogging start amounts to a slow start. I don’t want them getting momentum going into a rep.
On the resistives, it allows the partner holding the strap to make sure they have a secure grip. This not only protects them from having a sudden jerking motion causing any unnecessary injuries to their back or shoulders, but it also allows the runner to get a quality rep. If the partner isn’t ready to resist, the runner could stumble.
Getting set is more than just a pause. It’s a posture.
When you teach your athletes to get set, you’re teaching them a couple specific things.
First, get them off their heels. We don’t want athletes running flat-footed so start off the heels and stay off the heels. This simply means they need to be taught to slowly shift their weight forward without getting top-heavy. Tell them to load their front leg by getting on the ball of their foot and getting ready to push off. This is similar to the stance for 40-yard dash except upright.
Secondly, position their arms. So often I see an athlete’s arms switched. Running technique requires a knee up and elbow back. If the athlete is getting set with their left leg forward, they need to set their left elbow back. If they have it flipped, it leads to wasted motion at the start.
It only takes a brief moment to do this to facilitate a fast first step and get a quality rep.
This one is only relevant for group work.
Where item #2 above is more important for the hurdles, this reminder is more important for the ladder. Getting set for the hurdles will naturally create the time and thus the space for the athletes.
When using the ladder, especially a full one with up to 20 boxes, athletes may start crowding one another if impatient for their turn. Even on the simplest pattern of a one step, (usually less experienced) athletes risk catching up to the person in front of them and will have to slow down.
Remember, when utilizing the ladder, speed is the object thus slowing down is only okay if the athlete needs to get the upper body under control. If slowing down, or worse, stopping, just because somebody in front of them isn’t able to go as fast, then the rep is compromised and most likely, there's a traffic jam. So, if the set pattern requires more steps, remind your athletes to be patient and wait. Teach them to only start when they are confident they can go game-speed the whole way.
As a coach, I recommend you simply put your best at the front. If necessary, set a half ladder out and have kids who need to learn patterns work on the side. Once you are confident they can join the group without slowing anybody down, plug them in.
Again, space isn’t an issue for cone drills where only one athlete can go at a time, but wherever it is relevant, make sure the group isn’t running into each other.
Another example where this applies is the general element of clearing the path of any drill. Many times, I see athletes finish their rep, like a resistive, and they stay in the path of the drill. Remind the athletes to be aware and give space to the athletes coming next. Designate paths to walk back, if necessary, so bottle necks are not created.
There are programs out there that have enough assistants to do the clean up. However, for smaller programs, it may just be you, the Coach, and no assistants. Just like leveraging the manpower for set up, leverage it for pick up. My phrase at the end of a training session is, “Pick up, put up, clean up.”
Touching on the coach to athlete ratio, the goal should be to be as efficient as possible with your resources. I want you to be able to handle as big of a group as possible--comfortably and safely.
When you have your athletes pick up a ladder, does it get more tangled than if you had done it? Show them the proper way to put it away to ensure it doesn’t become shorter. When they pick up hurdles, do they take the time to line them up so that they are stacked tightly? What about cones? That's a pretty basic task of stacking.
If equipment has specific bags for storage and is to be placed in the bag a specific way, communicate that in some manner. If you have a small facility, space must be utilized efficiently. Not only must equipment be stored for safety, but every item should have its own place and be put back in the proper spot each time. This allows for others to use the equipment without having to search for it. Remember, weight migration is a real thing.
It all sounds simple (because it is), but until kids are shown, we can’t assume they know how we expect pick up to be done.
The principle of this article--take the time to teach. Even if you have to re-teach certain parts, take the time.
Eventually, you’ll see the impact on the kids and the program as a whole. You want your program to be a finely-tuned machine producing finely-tuned athletes. Guess what? That only happens if you master the basics. Never go back to basics; if you do, then you messed up when you left them. The basics should be implemented into your programs for daily use. Just like we don’t want kids going through the motion, we as coaches don’t want to just go through the motion. Every day is an opportunity to be better. Being disciplined in these small ways will allow you to grow in other areas.
Remember, you may have only one moment of glory, but you have every day to prepare for it.