Young Athletes Agility
Personally, I have never thought of flexibility or mobility as a factor that plays a huge role in an athlete being able to assume an athletic stance. I do not see where there is enough flexion/extension in any joint throughout the chain where this is really an issue. If you are getting that low you are never going to be overly quick out of the position.
For me, it has always been a matter of reeducation. Young athletes simply have no idea how to align their bodies to create the most effective angles for spontaneous multi directional movement. Often they have been coached wrong or not coached at all and have created their own interpretation of the stance.
So then it comes down to teaching. Therefore, one must be careful with their “selection of words” when describing movements and positions to kids and young.
For instance, flat back can often also mean a completely vertical torso. MANY kids will automatically make this correlation (and so do many coaches.)
I prefer using the terms “neutral” and “tilted.” As Kwame suggested, we work on rounding the spine, we work on arching the spine, and we work on keeping the spine in a “neutral” alignment. Then it is a matter or “tilting” the neutral spine forward as the hips move back.
Another coaching cue that has worked well for me is “opening the door with your butt.” Tell them that their butt is against a door and they have to push the door open with their backside. It works every time.
There is one coaching cue that Kwame and I have always had opposing opinions on. This is good as you should see multiple perspectives whenever possible.
We often differ on our cues for the feet. I teach loading of the ball of the big toe with lateral “tearing pressure.” Lee tells the athlete to pretend they are standing on a piece of paper towel and are trying to rip it in half with their feet (ball of the big toe to be more specific). I use this cue as well.
I am trying to say this with out being disrespectful so if I am Kwame, please accept my apology? However, I feel that using a cue such as “sink your feet into the ground” does not paint a very clear picture and can be misinterpreted to mean stand flat footed and stable.
I know Kwame can coach the pee-wha-diddlens out of speed so this is not his intended message? But once again words can paint a graphic picture.
Are you clear on knee angle (using a somewhat “valgus” stance), foot angle (forward or slightly pigeon toed), slight forward lean (to move the COG forward as far as comfortably possible) etc?
Dr. Kwame Brown says…
I should mention one more cue that I give (mistakenly left out of my original post): This will make the feet sinking make more sense. To the cue to get the hips down and back:
Add “body weight forward”
Feet will begin to take care of themselves automatically. Balance the body and the feet will do what they need to. Below I have another cue for this.
Flexibility / ROM is going to be an indirect factor, because of where they will be used to bending from. The physiological limitation creates the motor preference here. Ankle ROM / flexibility is included here as well, and is often overlooked.
From there, we usually add (slowly sometimes) feet pointed forward.
Tony, as long as we’ve been working together, how could you think it would be disrespectful to simply disagree with me? That would be mighty egotistical on my part.
Folks, Tony and I have both said on here time and time again, it is not the answers, but the discussion that is important. Learn about the system and how it works from our different approaches. Furthermore, as you can see here, Tony’s answer prompted me to complete mine. Without his response, my answer likely would have remained incomplete.
Read it all. don’t pick your favorite person, or favorite cue. read it all for understanding.
Thanks, Big Dawg!
What do you think? Leave your comments below:
One exception I will take here. The core should be in use, not tight. Tight = rigidity = slow. If we want to help kids learn their expression of speed / agility, then we must first start with the goals of coordination / fluidity.
Most kids, when you tell them to keep the core tight, also tighten shoulders and hips. The movement may appear more organized, which satisfies mostly our view of aesthetics, but not the actual goals of fluidity, power, economy, and the resulting speed.
Tony, IMO, is correct when he talks about body positioning being the key. The other key is the use of the feet.
The core is not the “abdominals”, and actually does not include the rectus abdominis (popular misconception). The core is all the internal muscles and fascia running through the center, or “core” of the body (hence the name).
Furthermore, the core actually starts in the feet. There are fascial and neural connections that matter from foot up. This is why I actually start most of my young athletes barefoot with light movement, to feel the action of the foot and how it relates to the rest of the body.
I agree with both comments that was mention that flexibility, coordination and having your movement be natural and not having stress on the joints. I agree with Tony on the alignment of the stance and another cue that you can mention is draw your belly button towards your spine to keep the core muscles tight. Having strong core muscles helps an individual have balance and coordination which will help them perform at whatever body movement they need to perform or for whatever sport they do. I believe the core muscles play an important role for balance and coordination.
i agree with both speakers because i have found that not all atheletes repond to the same instruction in the same way. so, if i am not getting the desired response, then i probably haven’t gotten through to that athelete (my instructions weren’t clear enough) and i need to say them in different words in the hope of getting my insructions to register.
I love the IYCA woirk and both your advice on cueing and positioning (which are very important); However, I disagree that mobility is not an important issue that plays a huge part in performance and positioning. Mobility is a factor in assuming athletic position. There needs to be plenty of mobility in the feet, ankle, knees, hips, and spine to get into the proper position and neurologically stmulate the muscles to do their job. Your cues were awesome for the spine and feet, but if someone’s joints can’t move into a certain position because of sensory motor amnesia or other liimiting factor it won’t matter what you tell them until you physically help their body get in that position. You can do this by simple joint mobility drills to allow more movement in the important joints of the position. A centimeter or range of motion can make a huge difference in performane. After doing some feet, ankle, and spine mobility with my athletes, I have found a huge difference in their ability to move and have a higher level of performance.
Thanks for all the great conent and education you bring to the field!
Guys – Good stuff, good discussions. Even in sport, words do mean things. However, in my years of coaching (I’m a ski coach), many athletes interpret words differently. Webster’s is pretty much gone, and it seems like Google and Wikepia are the dictionaries of choice, so I guess we’ve got to look there too. But back to my point, many times a short demo works best, and some times you just got to move that athlete around till they feel it.
Thanks for listening, Crawford Pierce
Team Geronimo (Alpine ski team, based in Aspen, CO)
PS If Lee or Brian see this: I can almost always watch Lee’s video clips, they’re great! Brian’s appear to be even more awesome, however I never seem to get past the first 18 – 20 seconds and they just keep downloading and downloading till my eyes go dizzy.
Since I am very much so green in the art of coaching and training athlete”s and I am currently at the begining stages of learning the body and what is necessary to improve it athletically, I found what both speakers had to say very insightful and informative.
Great, GREAT post…Thank both of you for sharing!
Ariana, they still won’t be as good lookin as Tony!
Thank you gentlemen for your informative dialogue. Now, if we could only get more coaches to be as open-minded in their discussions.
This athletic position is akin to a good golf posture. What may golfers both children and adults do when asked to bend at their waist and stick out their butt is to simple bend from their shoulders. Most people young or adult don’t know that if they shove their butt out their shoulders will come forward.Or more properly stated are unaware those to movements are real one combined move. I try to have them visualize the ball and socket that occurs in the hips and get them pushing on their lliac crest to get a sense of the ball rolling in the socket. This may be a good example of teaching proper movement to children so they can generalize movements across may athletic disciplines for and entire life time.
Hey guys, thanks for sharing your teaching ques. We all have different methods to achieve the same goals and it is great to share.
Remember as well (as Tony pointed out in the past) – anatomically it starts with the feet, but the glutes are the first to fire. so, if you have a pattern of not using the glutes, this must be addressed along with foot position and body position.
Gosh I feel like we could do a CEU just on the squat and athletic position…
Keep the posts coming. Every time someone posts, we realize there is information we forgot to give!!! The student – teacher relationship for that reason must always be a circular one (now I am starting to sound like my father – scary!)
For me the athletic position is of central focus when developing movement competency. I interpret the position as ‘being prepared to move’, in any situation. It happens all the time in all (land-based vertival world) sports. So this revolves around balance and force production. Balance equals stability which is the best platform for skill execution, and what angles are the body creating to apply the right force in the right direction. Whether it be a change in movement direction, landing from a jump, the position just after you’ve made a catch or hit, or right after contact with an opponent, the position you want to find is one where you are balanced, and then get where you need to go as efficiently as possible. I see the athletic position as a transitional position that links movements, and have my athletes explore this position in as many situations as possible. Initially coaching questions revolve around ‘the feeling’ of being balanced, stable & smooth, then progress to more directed cues of alignment and energy transfer.
It amazes me that more coaches and trainers dont reinforce athletic positioning more often with athletes. It’s a universal movement, so teaching points can be reinforced across a limitless number of movement-based speed and strength exercises.
I certainly agree Tony that its often just a case of reeducation and teaching. Within a few minutes a terrible squat technique can be largely corrected by offering, and demonstrating, some simple cues.
Thank you for always providing sincere and insightful information. Being a baseball coach, I always look for better ways to communicate what I see and to challenge the kids to put what I see into feel. Keeping a posture and holding unto that posture/angles until release is important regarding hitting principles…staying ‘connected’. Establishing terminology/glossary is critical…too many intrepretations, innacuracies and perceptions. I love ‘closing the door with your butt’, I have used ‘get into the middle line backer/rebounding the basket ball’ position or jump up and down 3 times and hold to get the kids to feel the proper batting stance when about to address the incoming pitch. Kids really need to feel body positions and movements, they are so often totally unaware of what their body parts are doing in space and in different sequences of a particular motion/movement. One last comment that I have found very helpful in teaching, is to start your instruction with activating prior knowledge/image…example i often say i want you to throw like spiderman…pretending that you are ‘spinning a web’ from your throwing shoulder to the intended target…this usually quarentees a proper follow thru vs a command of just ‘finish/follow thru’
Balance within the athletic position starts at the feet and works its way up. For instance, if your knees are out in front of your toes creating an imbalance within the athletic position. Then a visual cue can be used as well as a verbal cue. This way the athlete obtain the information visually and auditory. In my experience I make the coaching cue funny that way its memorable (like using a dirty toilet at a concert) I know it sounds gross but you can visualize the position. And those of you who’s been to events where the bathroom situation was grim can attest to the experience.
Great stuff keep it up! I am glad to be a member.
As a coach,it’s good to hear other caoches agree too disagree and be able too still work together!well done.As a rugby coach,multidirectional is a big part of our game both on defense and offense,so we need to be accurate in how we train our player’s,not only because of the need to execute the movement correctly and quickly,but,also risk free of injury(well almost). So thank’s and can’t wait too hear from you again,till next time. Eru 🙂
This was very informative. I think you both complimented each other with your respective explanations. They just were different perspectives. I actually had to think about what was meant regarding the description, “pretend they are standing on a piece of paper towel and are trying to rip it in half with their feet”, but it was clearer when it was said to “sink your feet into the ground”. I guess it depends on the readers’ knowledge, too. I’m a track coach and speed/conditioning trainer, so the latter description is similar to how I describe foot cues.
Great work, both of you!
I agree with the comments made by Gareth, especially about the need for balance. The sport I am involved with is Australian Rules Football which places enormous demands on such a vast range of movements. As it is a contact sport,tackling and bumping, players are constantly under pressure to maintain balance in order to perform their actions. Recovery, balance, coordination and acceleration are also essential. The ball travels very quickly from one position to another, the closest similarity is Gaelic Football played in Ireland.
I feel it should be combined cause agility is needs fexibility is a major point in everything also putting weight into it helps to to me this agruement just helped more ways but the people that mixes it together well have a better outcome