There are a lot of individuals in my industry – the industry of making athletes faster. Some do a great job and others need to brush up on their stuff. I feel like an airlines when I say to our athletes, “I know you have a lot of choices out there so we thank you for choosing us.”
Knowing that you have a lot of choices can lead to confusion. But, if you can look at these guidelines when choosing your speed program of choice, it should give you plenty of knowledge when you ultimately make your decision on who you want to go with.
- What is the size of the class? – Obviously one-on-one is the best option, but this can become very expensive quickly. Semi-private sessions can give you a reduced option with the hopes of an individual program..if done correctly. Group sessions can get you the most bang for your buck, but will the individual needs of your athlete be addressed.
My personal choice is semi-private to keep the costs reasonable, but still maintain a sense of an individual program for the athlete. I feel that certain athletes could get lost in the group program unless the expectations are altered. You can certainly foster some athletic attributes with a group setting, but if you want to get faster and quicker in my opinion that makes it a little tougher.
Ultimately, I feel each athlete is different and they need to be assessed the appropriate diagnosis to what it is going to take to get him/her faster. They shouldn’t be doing the same thing each time, just like they shouldn’t be doing the same program as other kids each and every time. Athletes progress at different rates and have different needs so getting them faster could be a different path then the other person.
- Are mechanics being taught? – Anyone that touts a speed program needs to work on mechanics. I was watching a track meet and saw this girl with awful mechanics. If she gets faster without changing the mechanics, it will purely be on her strength. Not improving the mechanics for running is about as smart as not improving the mechanics for pitching or serving in tennis.
Sometimes improving the mechanics goes deeper than telling the athlete to put your arms like this. If your speed coach can’t identify what muscles are causing what problems then you won’t get faster.
- Is this a speed program or a conditioning program? – Far too often, coaches use speed drills for their athletes, but use them the wrong way. Meaning, they don’t give adequate rest inbetween the sets to work the speed component appropriately. Instead, these drills turn into a conditioning workout. I have to explain to parents that speed training does not necessarily mean the athletes are crawling out to their cars when they are done.
It takes time for running mechanics to change. When fatigue sets in, the mechanics get harder to maintain. Thus, if you are flying through various speed drills one after the other, fatigue will set in, mechanics will falter, and you turn your speed drill into a conditioning drill not working on the very component you signed up for in the first place – speed.
- Is it carrying over to the games? – All this speed training isn’t worth a hill of beans if the athlete can’t see it happen in the games. If you can notice a difference in your athlete’s form, confidence, and apparent quickness and your athlete can notice the same things, then yes it is worth it.
- Do the athletes enjoy coming? – If they liken the speed training with going to the dentist, then we got issues. You shouldn’t have to pull teeth to get your athletes to come. This should be something they want to do and every so often say it is FUN.
This is just a quick checklist to make sure you are covering all your bases for speed development with your athlete. You can do what you want, but remember, you get what you pay for. I’ve been told that many times in life. Make sure you truly are getting the most bang for your buck.
Photo courtesy of Southern Arkansas University on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/saumag/