Youth Speed Training
By CJ Easter
One of the #1 questions that I get from coaches is “What is your favorite youth speed training drill?”
And I always give the answer that everyone hates, “It depends.”
But this is not a cop out because it really does depend. Speed is a total body, coordinated skill. So the “best drill” depends on what exact skill that we are trying to develop and the skill level of our athletes to properly perform that drill.
“That drill looks cool” should not be the deciding factor when putting together your training session. The deciding factor should be what is the simplest, most time-efficient drill to work on the desired concept.
One of my favorite coaching quotes is “Coach the kids, not the drills.”
Does it matter what the drill is if all the kids are doing it wrong and not developing the desired skill…
OR if we cannot demonstrate or coach this drill properly, so we have 50 kids moving “just like coach showed me” (which isn’t always pretty)?
When I first started coaching, I made those exact mistakes. I tried to take all the drills that I learned at Stanford and use them on my younger athletes. The classic “this is what I did, so you should do it too” coach.
My athletes not only weren’t developing the movement patterns that I wanted, but they were also losing confidence because they didn’t look and feel coordinated.
That’s when I made a huge realization…
College and professional coaches are probably the worst sources for youth and high school coaches to get drills from because they work with superior athletes.
Athletes don’t make it to that level without a certain level of coordination, so at the highest levels, the job description is mostly “don’t screw the guy up”. Our job as high school and youth coaches is to completely develop or restructure a coordination. I am not assigning value to either job, but they are definitely much different tasks.
So the “best youth speed training drill” is the drill that is done correctly to develop the skill that you want to address.
Here is a general template on exactly how I coach concepts and skills regardless of the youth speed training drill:
1. Introduce the skill/concept and the drill:
“This drill is called X. We are doing this to improve concept/skill X.”
This helps build a mental bridge for your athletes. They might not always like the drill, but at least they know and understand how it’s going to make them a better player.
2. Demonstrate the drill and explain key coaching points as you are demonstrating.
In the social media era, the majority of our kids are visual learners, so proper demonstration is necessary. Explaining the coaching points as you go also addresses auditory learners.
3. Demonstrate what you DON’T want to see and address common errors.
This aligns with John Wooden’s coaching style of “Do this, not this, do this.”
4. Demonstrate it correctly one more time, reinforcing the correct movement pattern.
5. Have your kids do a walk-through rep or if it’s an extended drill, do a mental walk-through. This addresses kinesthetic learners.
This process will take more time than just setting up the cones and saying “do this drill”, but you will definitely see improvement in the quality of your youth speed training drills and the development of the desired skills.