One of the most common pieces of equipment sport coaches and strength and conditioning coaches love to use are agility ladders… but why? Mostly people love to use them because they are very portable (can take to practice, use on the field), easy to set up and requires little instruction to demonstrate patterns for athletes to go through. But is this a reason for using them?
While agility ladders and footwork drills do have their place for building general coordination and foot speed in younger athletes (or as part of a warm-up), for developing athletic multi-planar speed and power, they are largely a waste of time and our efforts can be better spent elsewhere. I would even argue for soccer (the sport where foot speed is probably the most important) they are largely a waste of time as through practice for their sport they will build these foot speed skills that are more specific to their sport and learning agility ladder patterns is not going to improve this further.
I would even go on to say a lot of drills commonly used by coaches that work on foot speed are also a waste of time. If we are wanting our athletes to get faster, the number one thing that can be done do to improve their speed is to have them run FAST!!! The more practice our athletes get at accelerating, changing direction, and reaching and maintaining maximal velocity the better off they will be.
Another common thing I see in coaching is to spend hours on sprint mechanics and track and field type drills. While I believe these have their place (in warm-up; extra work sessions) we must remember that our field sport athletes are NOT sprinters. While we can use these drills to work on some of their MAJOR deficiencies in sprinting form, we must remember that some of the running styles and techniques develop from their sport and help them to perform at their best.
While there are techniques we can use when getting our athletes to run fast such as resisted sprinting, sprinting with sleds etc. sometimes simplicity is key when it comes to getting our athletes faster! We combine our speed training with plyometric and resistance training exercises specialized for our athlete’s sports and position, keeping in mind the work to rest ratios used in their sport. Keep in mind, we can’t do speed training if we are tired! To run fast and do proper speed training this involves FULL recovery. So, when coaches are doing endless conditioning drills just remember this also is not training SPEED.
Bottom line, to get our athletes faster we run… and we run FAST!!! We love to use reactionary drills to mimic the sporting environment, and to add competition to our drills to push our athletes to their fullest potential. Athletes want to compete, and you get the best out of them when they are doing just that, competing!
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