Game speed is an abstract concept. Sometimes athletes who are slow on the track appear as though they have a totally different gear on the field. For a long time, coaches struggled with this concept. They would often say, “That kid just has that type of speed you can’t teach,” or “That’s natural born speed.” But what is it about these athletes that makes them appear so fast on the field, when on a timer they are not nearly as impressive? This type of speed is called agility, and it is something that has been attempted to be taught through the use of speed ladders and complicated rhythmic drills. In Athletes Warehouse, we have the answer to unlocking agility, and it is no longer something that can’t be taught.
Agility is the ability to accelerate, decelerate, and change direction in any combination. However, we have found the number one determinant of agility to be reactive ability. This can explain how someone is able to continually gain a step on a defender who has faster acceleration times on the track. Once we determined that reaction determines agility, agility in game speed no longer becomes a skill that can’t be taught. In fact it can be taught very easily to athletes who are exposed to a specific training progression at a young age.
Agility drills that require the athlete to memorize and in-grain patterns into their memory fail to transfer to the requirements of sport. For example, if I’m a lacrosse defender and an offensive player is attempting to go 1-on-1 with me to the goal, there is no time for my mind to operate in a rhythmic order like a speed ladder drill. My subconscious mind is going act on the first hint of body language the offensive player gives away. Sports are chaotic, and therefore there are moments when we must train in chaos.
When we look at sports in terms of reaction to chaos, we realize how simple it can be to mirror this in training. No athlete should be in an agility drill by themselves because no athlete is on the field by themselves. Every action performed on a field is in response to another person. Utilizing a partner in our agility drills allows our athletes to accumulate repetitions reading another person’s body language. Even the best athletes will naturally express body language that will expose the direction they intend to move. When we progress athletes through a series of reactive agility drills they begin to become more efficient at reading their opponents.