Sport Relevant Speed
Speed is not expressed in sport in the same manner as in the 40 yard dash or in track and field. While many concepts from the track world are utilized to develop speed, specifically acceleration, in team sport athletes, there must be a transition to sport relevant speed. Balance, joint mobility, joint integrity, eccentric strength, explosive power, coordination, and reaction/response time must all be addressed.
Sport relevant speed requires multidirectional acceleration and deceleration, appropriate response to a live stimulus, the alteration of movement based on a frequently changing environment and the ability to overcome an opponent. Sport relevant speed skills are developed by first introducing ideal movement patterns and movement skills including proper running mechanics, foot placement and posture maintenance during movement. Once this initial base is developed, the athlete must be challenged with and eventually master as many different and increasingly complex motor patterns/tasks as possible. These tasks include different starting positions of sprints, sprint lengths, angles of sprints, types of movement, directions of movement, obstacles to movement, resistance to movement and specific types of cuts. All locomotion must be performed with correct execution within the context of individual difference and variability of strengths, weaknesses and comfort levels.
These movement tasks must be presented to the athlete along with several possible solutions. At first, these solutions should be practiced and mastered. Once this occurs, the drills should be repeated at full game speed, allowing the athlete to adapt or adjust the learned techniques to his particular body and set of skills in order to fully adopt the new movement patterns. The more movement problems and motor patterns the athlete is exposed to and can master, the more tools he will have to call upon when needed.
Once the athlete is competent with pre-planned drills, reaction requirements and some sort of chaos will be introduced in order to get the athletes acquainted with recognizing and reacting to an appropriate stimulus. This type of training will yield benefits that include improved quickness, improved body control and a reduction in injuries.
Explosive, fast athletes must possess sensitive motor systems. They should be excitable and easily triggered. Without the possession of this trait, it will prove difficult to activate and deactivate the muscles in a coordinated fashion at the high speeds that sprinting requires. Speed work by its nature, must be performed at high intensity in order to illicit any true improvements. A trait such as speed is improved by mere percentage points, hundredths of seconds, or inches. When working in those terms, there is no room for holding back.