Are you watching the NBA or NHL playoffs? As I was writing this and flipping between games, I thought about how I watch games with a different perspective. Whether I’m watching a basketball player run around screens or a hockey player skating around the net and both redirect to lose a defender, I couldn’t help but think about the drill I’m coaching today.
Previously, I've mentioned how some people associate certain drills with certain sports, however, the reality is they are speed drills indicative of athleticism that apply to any sport that involves change of direction (COD).
The 3-Cone Drill, aka the “L” Drill, is that drill today.
Again, communication is key. Make sure your athletes understand this is another drill with multiple names. I know there are many drills that can utilize three cones, just as there are many variations to how you can do a “L”-shaped drill. That being said, get your athletes on the same page.
The L-Drill is a COD drill where the standard version is three cones set as a right triangle, with two of the cones five yards apart with the “middle” cone creating a right angle, thus the “L” shape. In total, it is a 30-yard drill containing five changes of direction with a path that changes planes.
Again, the standard movement pattern is running.
Like the Pro Shuttle, this falls under the COD Speed Training theme. It is not considered a sport-specific COD drill. You should train this drill to develop lateral speed, quickness at tighter angles and body control.
This is one of the best COD drills. Though not as simple as the Pro Shuttle, it practices more angles of turns. There are the standard 180º and 90º turns, but then those same angles with different athletic demands as we’ll get to.
This drill can be reduced, but I am going to teach the full drill. For younger kids, you can remove the first ten yards of the drill for teaching purposes.
Check out this video for clarity on the set up and path.
You always start outside of the first cone behind the line. The stance is the same as the start for the 40-yard dash. Since this is a speed drill, we use a speed stance. A common mistake is football players will use a football stance and it’s not ideal for the get-off. The hand starts on the ground.
If your sport doesn’t test this drill, you can start up, but for American football it is not optional since that is for testing.
Thus, the start is the same as it is for the 40. You jump out without popping straight up. With a turn only 3-5 steps away, you don’t need to rise up. You need a big first step without overstriding. Come out and hold the line.
A critical coaching point:
1. Run with your eyes. Your body follows your head and your head follows your eyes. Getting your eyes around helps get your head around.
A new coaching point:
2. There are some distinct differences between the L Drill and the Pro Shuttle. I’ll cover them here.
I don’t want you to get confused about first cone or second cone since you come upon cones twice. I’ll refer to the phases by which change of direction it is.
As with all short sprints, they are still sprints. With this drill, it is required to touch the line with the hand ONLY on the first two changes of direction and, unlike the Pro Shuttle, you’ll use the same hand and turn the same way for those two changes of direction.
So if you’re aligned with the cones to the right of you, you will touch with the right hand. Even though this puts your back to the cones on turn one, it puts you facing the cones on turn two. Same goes that there’s no need to smash the line. The line is still hot. Touch and go. Another detail is to make a 90 degree turn. Make sure you do not turn so that you lose sight of the direction you are going.
Keep your balance. As you touch the line, you want the shoulders leaning away from you to give you momentum off the stop. This is all about transitioning your center of gravity. Your feet must be apart and hips between the knees. As you leave the first cone, get into sprint form as fast as possible, as is the name of the game. Find the second cone with your eyes.
You don’t gain time by keeping both feet inside the cone. So five yards might look like five yards and one foot in terms of how far you travel. When you turn and the foot goes past the cone, you just need to be in an open stance, positioning you to run.
Touch with the same hand! As with the 5-10-5, only one hand touches the ground.
Everything else concerning the turn and takeoff is the same as the first COD. Start your turn as you stop, fall into the next sprint.
No hand touch the rest of the way!
The three biggest mistakes athletes make:
1. Planting with the wrong foot. Plant on your outside foot so you can drive into the next sprint, which as you see in the video is now going to the far cone. This needs to be drilled til they can’t get it wrong because this principle applies to all of COD.
2. Rounding these turns. Rounding off these turns adds distance which adds time. These turns can be tighter while still being faster. This is going to require a dip and lean. It is key to not swing the inside leg. Drive the inside leg as a true step.
3. Chopping feet to decelerate. This drill needs to be done in as few steps as possible. So many athletes think it is faster to chop their feet because they think of the times you’ve told them to chop your feet to break down. However, that is a sport-specific context to put an athlete in a position to react. There is no reaction here. They know where they are going, so get there.
This is the hardest turn.
The two BIGGEST mistakes you’ll see:
1. A less nuanced one is simply going the wrong way. You go “under” the cone. This effectively creates a figure-8 path. Proper execution is objective in this case. Kids are easily confused if they haven’t done it often. Even my veterans, once they get tired, can slip up.
2. Chopping and pivoting around the turn. This must be avoided. It is not faster to take extra steps. You are still planting on the outside foot. DIP and LEAN. Don’t swing the inside leg, drive it. Plant and twirl whilst keeping your limbs in control.
An honorable mention is touching the cone. Touching cones is a DQ. You also shouldn’t have to touch the ground when rounding the cones for balance.
This is the same as the third change of direction.
DON’T ROUND IT OFF! Keep it tight to the cone.
Track and field finish rule #1 still applies: run through the finish. Find something to run to past the finish.
Every court or field sport athlete should do this drill.
While water sports like swimming are unique in their own right, even water polo athletes could utilize this drill.
The caveat I mentioned earlier is that the youngest athletes can be introduced with a shorter set up where you reduce the distance between the cones and run the whole thing. For instructional purposes, use the jog-practice method. They jog the drill which makes it possible to give verbal instructions they can follow.
Regardless, this is another common COD drill you need to take the time to teach to all your athletes regardless of sport.
This is a high priority drill and should be the second COD drill introduced and implemented right after the Pro Shuttle. It should be revisited at least once every two weeks.
This drill can be done indoors or outdoors, on hardwood or on grass. Depending on your sport, it may be best to train in cleats on turf/grass. Unlike the Pro Shuttle, which can be done in a hallway on a rainy day (I’ve been there, done that!), this requires more space.
That’s it for the L Drill. As always, be patient teaching this because all of these elements all at once are overwhelming for beginners.
This is a drill that can be taken step by step, break it into sections to teach the details.
Next week, I’m switching gears just a little bit by teaching you a drill that isn’t a featured drill in pro days. It’s our bread and butter, and it’s so hot it melts that butter. It’s our Hot 250 and you WON’T want to miss it.