Speed is so important for an athlete. Some teams will be constructed for the sole purpose of having speed at all their positions. Kids get college scholarships based on running a particular time for a drill. Kids are drafted for that same reason.
It is tough to judge whether a young athlete will develop speed appropriately. An athlete might not be fast until late teens after puberty has hit and the muscles are fully developed.
Or an athlete might be very fast as a youngster, but then plateau as he/she gets older. I get athletes like this all the time. The kid gets worried because now everybody has caught up to him/her and the advantage has disappeared.
I do a test with my athletes that gives me an idea of potentially how fast someone could be. When I say a test, it isn’t something that is part of my initial assessment, but it is something that I do as part of the training for an athlete.
Running is a series of single leg explosions.
I say that because you have to remember that concept as you are planning out the training program for the athlete. At some point, you need to make sure this concept is built into the training. Meaning, you can’t have the athlete constantly doing drills developing explosion on both legs simultaneously.
The test that I do for athletes is really a progression of testing, but it determines the athlete’s ability to handle single leg explosions.
- First, I see if the athlete can hop up and down on one foot fast. Just doing this simple test will determine whether the athlete can generate force rapidly and absorb the force to quickly re-direct it back off the ground. Much like an athlete running.
- The only problem with that first test is sometimes it is tough to determine whether the athlete is hopping fast or just moving the foot up and down real quick. So we add a variable to it and make them jump rope on a single leg. Now they definitely have to get off the ground in order to allow the rope to pass under the foot. But, if they have not developed the coordination yet to jump rope, they could be only getting in a few jumps at a time before starting over.
- This last test is placing a step or low box on the ground and having the athlete jump up and down on it as fast as he/she can. For this one, I have them go at a max of 10 seconds per leg because the athlete can get tired fast, trip on the step, and possibly fall because of that. If they seem to be getting a number in the high teens for this test, then I raise the box or step. I’m shooting for a number a little past 10. Jump rope is great for a lot of things and I want to make sure I develop that with my athletes. But if I don’t have much time to work with an athlete and they aren’t picking up how to jump rope, then this is a great drill for them.
Now I said all these were tests, but really they are all drills that I incorporate into their training. These are simple drills that don’t need a lot of expensive equipment to perform. You get your kids doing these drills efficiently, then you will be well on your way to developing a fast athlete.