The first step!

Athletes need it in some capacity in every sport.  Ok, almost every sport.  Sorry bowlers and golfers.

In tennis, it is getting to that tennis ball before it gets by you or bounces twice.  In soccer, it is beating your opponent to the ball.  In track, it is getting out of the blocks quicker than the others.

We know what it is when we see it, but how do we develop it?  Exactly what is the first step?

Is it an acceleration?  Is it a quick reaction?  Is it some type of explosive movement?  Is it speed?  To be honest, it is a combination of all of them.  In my opinion, you need a little of all of these if you want to improve that first step.

Breaking this down to actually that first step and all of the above factors works something like this:

  • Acceleration – Is important, but it doesn’t really come into play until after that first step has happened. BUT, it doesn’t matter how quick that first step is if your acceleration stinks.  Your opponent will overcome that first step real quick.
  • Quick Reaction – This is very important. You have to have a quick reaction in order to activate that quick first step.  The gun goes off, how fast can you move from the sound of the gun, to you hearing it, and moving that first step?  A defensive back reacting to the move of the receiver.  He breaks in for a slant, how fast can you process that move and react to make the play?
  • An Explosive Movement – The reaction is great and can certainly compensate for some things, but that first step might be a moot point if it isn’t explosive. Once the reaction comes into play based on a visual or audio stimulus, it must be explosive.  If it can be explosive, then the acceleration can come into play a lot sooner for the athlete.
  • Speed – This is very similar to the explosive movement, but speed has to be there throughout the whole process of the first step.

Alright, we’ve addressed all these factors you need for a good first step.  How do you develop it?

The first step is to develop the reaction.  It can be as simple as a change of direction drill.  Have the athlete move in one direction at full speed and then change direction once a visual or audio command has been given.

A progression might be to react with power.  So, maybe you do an acceleration drill where on a command the athlete has to do a forward long jump, then sprint out.  They have to get a certain distance with the jump, sprint out a certain distance, and then time it.

The last thing you might want to do to develop that power and speed is a side to side plyo jump.  Set up 3 benches, lengthwise in a straight line so you have about 15 feet or so of benches.  Jump back and forth and move down the line of the benches trying to hit a certain amount of jumps, say 8.  By the 8th jump, the athlete needs to be at the end of the benches.  Time the athlete and try to get faster.

That will help with the explosiveness needed for the first step.  If you want to put icing on the cake, then jump rope and do it on one foot.  Go for a certain amount of time and see how many you can get in.  Not only will it help coordination and agility, but that rapid fire jumping on one leg will help with that first step.

That’s all you have to do.  Well that and implement a strength training plan to get stronger.  But, that’s it.  What do you think?  Put your comments in the box below and tell me your thoughts.