Speed & Agility: An Off-Season Essential for Improved Sports Performance

Both straight ahead running speed and lateral speed and agility are important aspects of a soccer game. Often the faster, stronger athletes will have an edge over other athletes. More importantly, besides sport skill, agility has been proven to be a primary indicator of success in athletes. An athlete must be able to explosively start, accelerate, decelerate, change direction and accelerate quickly again with and without the ball to be effective. According to John Graham in an article, Agility Training for Athletic Performance, “most athletic activities that utilize agility occur less than 10 seconds and involve the ability to coordinate a few or several sport specific tasks simultaneously.”

Agility requires the coordination of our neurological system to perform sport specific movement and skills. To ensure athletic success it is important for athletes to practice these sport specific movements at an early age. Coordination is best developed in children 7-14 years old but the best time frame is between 10 and13 years old when the nervous system is pliable and movement patterns are not permanent. As the athlete gets older it is more important to reinforce movements already learned then to teach new ones. It is extremely important that if an athlete is participating in an agility program that they are consistent. Repetition is vital for the development of great athletic movements. This is why it is critical for speed and agility to be part of your child’s off-season training for soccer. It can take months to see improvements in speed and agility. Speed and agility training is a process and the journey will be worthwhile if athletes are focused when participating.

When participating in a speed and agility program there are some important components that should be addressed. According to Bill Parisi, “the secret to great game speed is to manage your center of gravity.” When mastering movement for sport one must be balanced, being able to be explosive and react to different stimuli from various body positions. Doing so in an environment that is diverse and constantly changing is important. Exercises should be at a level that challenges one but is not too difficult. Skills should progress from good spacial awareness with no speed to high speed. According to John Graham there are 7 components of agility training. 1. Strength 2. Power 3. Acceleration 4. Deceleration 5. Coordination 6. Dynamic balance 7. Dynamic flexibility.

If you would like more tips on speed development look for information from Vern Gambetta. He has developed a system called 3S System on Sport Specific Speed. He has 22 tips on speed development that may be beneficial for you or your athlete.

This winter PASS is offering at 10 week speed and agility program beginning in January and running through March. Sign up online.