As we look at the Hierarchy of Sports Performance Training, we have already discussed general strength and why it is truly the base of any good sports performance training (if you haven't seen the article, click HERE).
As we move up the hierarchy we come to general speed and agility training. This is probably one of the most overlooked and misunderstood areas of training for athletes. Oftentimes athletes think they get all the speed and agility training they need in their sport-specific practice.
But do sport-specific practices really train the mechanics of stopping and starting, accelerating, and jumping and landing? More than likely that is not the case. They may do some higher-level change of direction drills, but it is done with the assumption that the athlete already knows how to stop and start effectively (or you'd better learn fast!!).
The problem with neglecting this piece of training is in most sport-specific practices this is not taught. It is assumed the athlete knows it. And it makes sense, because this is GENERAL speed and agility training, and practice is SPORT-SPECIFIC.
Learning how to stop and start effectively, accelerate well, and jump explosively and land safely takes a dedicated training session, as there is more to it than “just do it!” An athlete that can do those things effectively is at such at advantage over an athlete that doesn’t. An athlete that lacks the natural explosive ability but knows how to change directions effectively can often beat an athlete that has that natural explosive ability.
At the same time, an athlete the can change directions effectively and land from jumps in a good position is at a lower risk of injuries. Non-contact injuries tend to happen when the knees or ankles get out of position and a lot of force is going through the joint. If we can learn how to keep a good position while putting a lot of force through the joints (aka stopping and starting NOW), we can lessen the injury risk.
Learn how to stop and start quickly, get up to speed now, and jump high and far and land in a good position. You’ll be a better athlete the moment you step on the court, field, mat, or whatever you play on. You’ll also be one step ahead of the competition (if not two or three).