The Number 1 Key to Improving Speed in Young Athletes

The Number 1 Key to Improving Speed in Young Athletes

When we think of speed we envision Usain Bolt hurtling along the track in record-breaking time or a wide receiver blazing towards the endzone in a footrace with a free safety. In essence we usually think of linear speed – or straight away speed. In the vast majority of sports, however – the athlete’s ability to cut or change direction quickly is far more crucial. In any grass or court environment, multi-directional speed reigns supreme. One of the hallmarks of building multi-directional speed is the ability to LATERALLY DECELERATE (ie. Slow down in a side to side pattern) the quickest. Here are 3 steps to a better lateral deceleration.

  1. Foot out: The first thing to think about when stopping sideways is to get the foot out beside you (about a foot’s length from outside shoulder width position). Some coaches call this “outside the box” – an invisible box that surrounds both feet. This gives your body the best chance to accelerate out of this position in the opposite direction. Don’t be too concerned about precision here but practice getting about a foots length as stepping too far or not enough will lessen your power and make you more injury prone.
  2. Hips back/knees bent: This is usually the BIGGEST DOWNFALL in mastering the lateral deceleration movement. Most young athletes simply do not get “low” enough to generate enough acceleration. By dropping your hips back and bending your knees (so that that are in line with the toes), you are pre-loading the powerful posterior muscles (buttocks and hamstrings) which are crucial in propelling you the other way.
  3. Toes forward: Keeping your toes forward when you step out will ensure optimal power when you re-accelerate and again may save you from an injury.

Practice this by repeating fast step-outs using the above tips. Try it from a stationary position, then practice side-shuffle/stop, then side-shuffle/stop/accelerate in the opposite direction.

If you have questions about speed enhancement, please feel free to contact me.