Do you want to run faster? Chase somebody. If you are chasing somebody, you are inclined to run faster. Why?
For starters, there’s the associated adrenaline dump that goes with it. Then there is the anxiety that your opponent may feel knowing they could get fetched, causing them to tense up and inhibit their speed. At the very least, the urgency triggers a response to hustle.
A football highlight that comes to mind is when D.K. Metcalf (Seattle Seahawks) caught Budda Baker (Arizona Cardinals) after an interception in an NFL game, but I’m sure you’ve seen clips of it at every level and in different sports. Just like when a basketball player hustles back on defense during a fast break and blocks the shot at the last second.
Now, let’s think of chasing with a natural backdrop, as in the wilderness.
Maybe you’ve seen something on Animal Planet or National Geographic where a predator is chasing its prey. One of my favorite scenes I think of is the episode of Planet Earth II when the iguana is being chased by snakes. Even funnier--it was set to the NFL Primetime theme. The Internet doesn’t lose, and lucky for the iguana, it didn’t either.
So, let's take these elements of speed we've witnessed and transform them into a type of training. In this case, it’s very simple to do.
Any time you are going to utilize a drill where there is a competetive element, match up two athletes who are comparable in speed, strength or whatever the applicable skill is.
Have those two athletes sit on the ground facing the same direction with their legs straight and feet apart (you'll essentially have one athlete in front of the other). The front athlete sits just forward of the back athlete's shoe bottoms--without touching. The main reason to start on the ground is it creates a level-playing field so the athletes can’t cheat or lean into the start.
On the coach’s command, they both get up to sprint to a cone 10-15 yards away.
You can establish one of two objectives:
1. For a shorter distance, the rear athlete attempts to tag the front runner. My suggestion is just the outside of the shoulder.
2. For a longer distance, the rear athlete attempts to pass the front runner to the cone.
Either way, the race is on. As you will see it creates a sense of urgency by both runners.
The ideal time to utilize this is as a final drill to conclude the lead up portion of training. It finishes the build up to full-speed training.
In the King Sports Training world of doing-whatever-works, one of the laws of training in any place is, “Anything that marks a distance is a cone.” A water bottle, a clip board, etc. If you need movable cones to adjust for drill changes, I have used spectators as “kid cones” while they rest and rotate. It all works.
We are often trying to help coaches manage their ratio. It’s always a challenge to have effective training with numbers, so activities that don’t require equipment are helpful.
If you want to introduce an apparatus, you can use ladders and hurdles.
Ladder races are best with two half ladders side by side. No matter what pattern you choose, a fair start is a must.
You can simply have an athlete behind them in line clap. Instead of “ready, set, go,” I recommend a “set,” pause (as they set) and clap as soon as they are ready. Don’t waste time playing games with the start.
If there is a false start, reset once. It’s not worth wasting too much time.
The most important thing to enforce is that any misstep on the pattern is a “DQ.” Skipping a box is cheating in this drill, but that’s already standard protocol for the ladder anyways. The athlete to complete the pattern and fully exit the ladder, wins.
This drill can have a little more variation. Like the ladders, you need two lanes next to each other. The caveat is that one can be a short course of eight hurdles at 3-foot spacing and the other can be a short course of six hurdles at 4-foot spacing. Both lanes finish at the same place but require a different stride length.
Same method for a fair start. The athlete who steps past the last hurdle first is your winner. If anybody kicks over a hurdle, that’s a DQ.
Depending on the age of your athletes, this drill will give an advantage to the athlete in a certain lane. Typically the athlete with the 3-foot spacing will win due to it being a short course but a longer course naturally allows the 4-foot spacing to pick up more speed.
You can play with the amount of hurdles, too. It doesn’t necessarily need to be even. Adjust according to the level of your kids.
The easiest application of this with cones and change of direction is the Shuttle Mirror drill.
You have a standard set up with three cones, five yards apart in a linear path. Athletes are positioned on both sides facing the cone, thus facing each other. On the command or clap (whatever whistle you decide), they both perform a standard shuttle.
The movement pattern doesn’t matter as long as they are consistent. The direction doesn’t necessarily matter, either. What’s fun about this one is you can let them decide what direction they want to go. If they start opposite directions it doesn’t matter because they are both finishing at the same place.
The most important thing here is that they touch the line equally at the change of direction. I prefer a hand-touch, but a foot-touch is sufficient as long as they are on the same page.
The winner is the athlete who passes their torso through the middle cone first.
I want to be clear that I reserve drills like these for the opportune moment. Racing is something that doesn’t always work in training. The best example is the High Speed 110s. We don’t race when we are doing that kind of high speed work.
The time to do the above is when you notice your kids need something dynamic. We are always trying to be mindful of morale and you know your teams the best. Gauge when you can keep the training standard and when you might need to stir up your athletes’ competitive fire.
Every day to prepare-CBK