Speed and agility are game-changers. Whether on the court, field or ice, we all want our athletes to be faster, quicker and more agile.
The key to improving speed and agility in young athletes is to adopt the right strategy and mindset.
- Train kids like you would an adult, and your program will fail for most.
- Drill them incessantly without time to play, and you will burn them out.
- Make it fun while making it challenging, and you’ll not only develop a better young athlete but also a motivated one.
Back to Basics
As a young athlete—whether they are the fastest player on the field or training to get better—it begins with technique. It is much easier to build a solid foundation to continue improving upon as their body matures and develops, then trying to reverse bad habits.
- Focus on the fundamentals of speed. The great thing about training kids is the ability to mold their technique the right way instead of having to backtrack and correct flaws. Improvements will be seen quickly. Kids love gratification—and so do parents.
- Long term value. Instill in your youngsters that the work they do today will benefit them ten-fold as they mature and train for the long run. Bringing in accomplished athletes whether high school, collegiate, and even pros to speak with them will make a huge impact.
- Employ the basics like High Knee Marches, Arm Swings, Wall Marches, and Skips
Don’t Train Youth Athletes like “Mini Adults”
The younger the athlete the more they’re still learning how to move and developing their proprioception (body awareness in space). That’s why it doesn’t make sense to throw young athletes into the gym just performing squats, deadlifts and bench presses.
Instead, improve their speed and sports performance through games and drills, which should include speed training, change-of-direction and deceleration drills.
- Have the youth athletes use both sides of their body as much as possible. A great example is mirror drills, which are fun and effective. The Lateral Mirror Drill is a simple, fun drill that will improve reaction time.
- Incorporate drills that keep the athletes moving. No one likes to get eliminated and watch from the sideline, so try to keep drills partner or group-based.
- Introduce Change-of-Direction (COD) Drills – Implement cones drills, which are always popular with young athletes with drills like the Triangle Drill.
Improve Speed by Training to Slow Down
Many non-impact injuries occur when landing after a jump or when slowing down to change direction. Deceleration training is one of the best speed training methods because it not only increases an athlete’s durability but also improves speed by training the athlete to change direction quickly.
- Keep it simple at first. These athletes are still growing. Pushing young athletes into advanced explosive drills (plyometrics) will just lead to undue stress to joints and connective tissue. Here’s a good beginner drill.
Single Leg Jump Squats
- Have the athlete jump up as high as possible on one leg and land on the same leg.
- Immediately have them lower the opposite foot to the ground but taking 3 full seconds to lower it before it touches.
- Then take 3 additional seconds to lower into a full squat with both legs.
- Repeat by jumping off the same leg.
Linear Cone Drill
- 2 cones, 3 yards apart.
- Sprint to the second cone, decelerate into a staggered stance or lunge.
- Backpedal to the start.
Helping youth athletes increase speed and agility provides them both a mental challenge as well as a workout. Remember Kids need to have fun when training. If you make it fun and make it effective, their speed, agility and long-term athleticism will increase tremendously.
- Aspen Institute Project Play Report, Visek, Amanda J. et al., “Fun Integration Theory: Towards Sustaining Children and Adolescents Sport Participation,” Journal of Physical Activity & Health, 2014.
- Azahara Fort-Vanmeerhaeghe;Daniel Romero-Rodriguez;Rhodri Lloyd;Adam Kushner;Gregory Myer; Integrative Neuromuscular Training and Injury Prevention in Youth Athletes. Part I : Identifying Risk Factors,Strength and Conditioning Journal 2016; 38(3):36–48.
- Azahara Fort-Vanmeerhaeghe;Daniel Romero-Rodriguez;Rhodri Lloyd;Adam Kushner;Gregory Myer; Integrative Neuromuscular Training and Injury Prevention in Youth Athletes. Part II : Identifying Risk Factors,Strength and Conditioning Journal 2016; 38(4):9-27