The following is an excerpt from the Training for Agility and Quickness program in the Amplified Soccer Market.
By Ian Jeffreys BA(Hons), MSc, PGCE, CSCS*D, ASCC, NSCA-CPT*D
Ian Jeffreys is currently Director of Athletics and Athletic Performance at Coleg Powys in Brecon, Wales. He is the Proprietor and Performance Director of All-Pro Performance, a performance enhancement company based in Brecon, Mid Wales and is the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Welsh Schools Rugby Union National team at Under 16 level. He is a registered strength and conditioning coach with the British Olympic Association, an NSCA Coach Practitioner, and a Board Member of the United Kingdom Strength and Conditioning Association. Ian was voted the NSCA High School Professional of the Year in 2006.
Speed agility and quickness training has become prevalent in many soccer training program the world over. This attests to the importance of speed and agility to peak soccer performance, and the fact that these important factors can be improved though training. While much literature exists outlining speed and agility drills, these do not always follow a logical sequential pattern of development.
If speed and agility are seen as skills, then they should be subjected to the same type of skill development program, as any other sport skills, such as pitching a baseball, throwing a football, passing a soccer ball etc. In the sport specific cases there is normally a well-practiced development program in place which starts with the fundamentals, and then develops the skill through planned stages of development until it can be effectively carried out in sport specific environments. At all times in this progression, each developmental stage is based upon the foundation work carried out in the previous stages. In addition each part of a movement is practiced in term of its function on the field of play.
Unfortunately, many agility programs are not based on such a sequence of development, and no fundamental movements are identified. This lack of fundamental identification and subsequent development means that many of the key movements do not become grooved into skills. The approach I outline here attempts to present a functional classification of locomotive speed and agility, and then identify fundamental movement patterns which contribute to effective soccer based speed and agility. These are then placed in a development program leading from the fundamentals to sport specific speed and agility, all based upon sound skill acquisition theories.
A new method of classifying locomotive agility – the target method
This attempts to classify speed and agility based movements according to their sport related function i.e. the target of the movements. Soccer speed and agility can be seen as a serial skill, with the effective combination of a series of discrete movement chunks into a smooth whole. In deconstructing these movements, three types of functions can be identified:
- Initiation movements
- Transition movements
- Actualization movements
Initiation Movements: The target here is to either start or change a movement. To this end they are normally discrete rapid movements with a specific aim of changing movement. A change of movement can be a change in direction, a change in speed or both.
The main initiation movements involved in soccer are outlined later.
Transition Movements: These occur as a player is waiting to respond to a stimulus. The main target therefore is to enable the player to maintain a position from where they will be able to read and react rapidly, normally through an initiation movement. The focus of coaching with transition movements is to optimize body position allowing for effective subsequent initiation moves. However, in many programs transition movements are not trained as transition movements and an athletes body position is often compromised resulting in ineffective read and react responses.
Actualization Movements: These are the often the pay moves and will normally consist of two types of actions, a soccer skill, or a rapid acceleration. The quality of the actualization movement will be largely dependent upon the quality of the transition and initiation movements that precede it.
Utilizing the target approach to enhance learning transfer
This target approach assists in the selection and coaching of appropriate drills for soccer based speed and agility. The greatest transfer of learning between a drill and soccer based performance occurs when the drill replicates the requirements of soccer. By understanding both, the purpose of a particular movement and how it then applies to soccer performance, the coach is able to select drills that best develop the movement patterns they are aiming to enhance. At no time should the performance of a drill become an end in itself, and training should always be geared to enhancing soccer performance rather than performance on a drill. A look at many drills aimed at enhancing soccer agility quickly reveal that they do not replicate the movement patterns of soccer, or that the movement patterns are performed in directions or distances that do not relate to soccer.
Get the rest of this article plus "Using Free Weights as a Tool to Improve Lateral Movement Performance in Soccer with Video" and "12 Video Exercises to Improve Agility and Quickness" in the Training for Agility and Quickness training program in the Amplified Soccer Market.