Every athlete wants to get quicker and more agile, either to elude a defender, attack an opponent, or show off to their significant other or someone else in training and competition. Those that can demonstrate greater quickness capacity generally always become victorious. Many strategies for acquiring high amounts of agility and quickness have been proposed and documented up until now, but I want to take a brief moment and discuss some ingredients for success in the context of agility and quickness training that isn’t so often emphasized but are essential to the process.
You will witness this specific agility technique performed generally with the slideboard, lateral bounding types, and crossover dribbles. The method involves the athlete holding his or her place on one leg. The non-supported or elevated leg then crosses slightly behind and to the outside of the balance leg. When this function occurs, there is an increased lengthening and loading effect of all the muscles on the outer aspect of the hip (Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, etc.). This can increase energy and power from the hip resulting in a more significant change of direction ability just before the athlete takes off or performs a power step.
#2-Moving Your Feet Under Your Mass
If you watch any great mover, you will notice that whenever they go to execute any particular type of foot plant (i.e., speed cut, sharp cut, crossover cut, etc.), they will usually sub-consciously move their feet underneath their mass rather than the other way around to complete the motion. When this occurs, the athlete is better able to unleash greater quickness and improve their efficiency for several reasons. If you happen to train athletes, you will probably catch this training error at some point, and it’s worth correcting. As Lee Taft has always stated in the past, agility is instinctive, and we want to let our athletes learn their bodies and discover proper athletic movement patterns. Through learning proper training angles, reading and predicting opponents, developing instincts, muscle memory, and optimizing pattern selection to name a few. Only when necessary do you want to step in and cue an adjustment to prevent self-sabotage in training with your athletes.
#3-Parallel Arm Rowing
Parallel arms is a defensive tactic that many great basketball defenders possess upon observation. Whether acquired or instinctual; these individuals have learned not to buy into the cliche feedback from classic low-level coaches suggesting to keep one hand high and one hand low. Ugh.
Why though? The reason deals with an arm and leg reflex. When the arms stay parallel as you get into the right position to try and prevent further advancement of an offensive player, or to prompt their re-direction into a tougher movement path, there is naturally more strength and power expression locally at the arm region via proper row-ing action, but this reaction also feeds down low through the legs as they drive explosively. Check out Aaron Craft below, one of the best collegiate defenders during his time getting ready to display this technique firsthand! This particular agility technique seems to be neurologically innate-like so many agility strategies from what I’ve seen over the years, but coaches make the mistake of falsely identifying and selecting different and slower methods that put the athlete at a competitive disadvantage, unfortunately.
#4-Poor Momentum Control
I’m also quite sure that Lee Taft initially identified and brought to light the concept of utilizing “momentum” as a useful training tool for athletes looking to enhance their agility and quickness skill. Bottom line is that the momentum generated from the speed we create from the ground can be viewed as a direct form of resistance that naturally feeds us in the intended direction we are traveling, and wants to prevent us from moving in opposing directions. With this in mind, stellar athletes more than likely unknowingly use this fact to their advantage, by anticipating their next movement based upon their opponent's present posture or weakness (i.e., hips out of position, lack of balance, etc.) and where their opponent is headed, and where the athlete wants to go. When the time strikes to attack or escape, these same athletes will effectively re-position their body segments in a manner that creates greater acceleration angles by leaning on the temporary momentum they just built to an extent. This specific tactic helps prevent delay in change of direction either by removing continuation of the previous movement, or any extra movement to re-establish proper position.