Speed Training For Young Athletes Coaching Tips
By C.J. Easter
One of our jobs as coaches to set the tone, tempo, and intensity for our speed & agility training sessions. This tone needs to be clearly communicated to our team leaders, who then set the expectation for the rest of the team.
My belief is that tone should remain consistent, while tempo and intensity can be adjusted. Watch your team as they come in the locker room after school (their posture, their energy level, see how they respond when you greet them).
Are they pretty sore from yesterday’s workout? Are they mentally exhausted from a day of tests? Observe and adjust the tempo and intensity accordingly.
I want my athletes to know and trust me as a coach. So by keeping my tone and message consistent and adjusting the training, they know what to expect from me as a coach, but they don’t always know what to expect from the training session.
Methods change, but core principles don’t.
Here are 5 tips to help set the tone for your speed training for young athletes offseason program:
1. The #1 priority is injury prevention.
Goal 1A in any offseason program is to completely eliminate training injuries. If your offseason program is causing injuries, IT’S NOT WORKING! You can’t expect your athletes to improve if they are functioning at 75% due to an injury. It takes 100% to improve your 100%.
I constantly ask our athletes how they are feeling and observe how they are moving. And in the offseason, we err on the side of caution in terms of muscle tweaks and abnormal soreness and “live to fight another down”
Goal 1B is to prepare the body to minimize non-contact injuries in-season. The best athlete in the world is no good to your team on the sideline with an injury. And at the youth and high school level, where the talent gap between your starters and backups can be monumental, a nagging injury can be a season changer.
2. Expect 100% focus and effort.
Every rep is an opportunity to get better. We keep all our speed training for young athletes & agility training sessions under 60 minutes to keep the intensity, effort, and focus high.
100% focus means being receptive to coaching and paying attention to detail (like starting every rep behind the line and finishing every rep through the line
100% effort is flying around and keeping the tempo and energy up. We never walk on the field. We don’t expect our athletes to do every drill correct the first couple times, but we do expect them to make the effort to correct themselves and finish the drill.
3. Speed is a coordinated skill that needs to be practiced everyday.
Speed is a highly complex motor skill that requires total body coordination. The arm action must coordinate with the leg cycle and the core must remain stable to maximize the force applied into the ground at the optimal angle with every foot strike. The coaches who think speed is all genetic and say “speed can’t be taught” are the same coaches who don’t understand the concept of speed as a coordinated skill.
The offseason is the in-season for speed, so just like you practice the skills of your sport everyday in-season, so you should be practicing the coordination and mechanics of speed everyday in the offseason. In most sports you are running, jumping, and changing direction much more often than you are actually in contact with the ball.
4. Don’t look to induce fatigue, manage it.
A fatigued athlete basically performs at the same level as an injured athlete. So the “it takes 100% to improve your 100%” argument from above applies here as well. We are looking to build muscle memory proper and efficient movement patterns in our athletes. However, if our athletes are fatigued to the point where their movement is compromised, they are building muscle memory of poor habits and this is what they will fall back when they are fatigued come game time. We want to increase work capacity without compromising movement patterns.
5. Prioritize speed, agility, and movement training.
If I only have 30-60 minutes per week with my team and you give me a choice between being on the field or being in the weight room, I am going to choose the field every time. And on days when we are doing both speed and weight room work, I always schedule the speed training first. The end goal is to have my athletes stay healthy and perform better on the field and when time is limited, running, jumping, and cutting brings us much closer to that goal than moving around heavy weights. Being weight room strong is great, but speed is the application of that strength on the field.
Take at least one of these 5 tips on speed training for young athletes and put them into action today!
“Don’t let your learning lead to knowledge, let your learning lead to action.”