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In-Season Speed Training - Good News, Bad News

by: Dale Baskett
Football Speed Specialist
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Summer is over and now itís time to turn on the lights and begin with weekly competition. Speed and strength should be at their peak levels coming into the fall season. The months of hard work with zero competition are over and itís time to benefit from the fruits of your labor. Speed should certainly be at the razorís edge coming in.
This is where the fun begins: maintaining and/or improving speed during the season. This can be done, but not without a commitment to certain details. Believe it or not, there are programs that de-emphasize in-season speed training with some even voiding it out altogether. Voiding out speed is unbelievable, in my opinion. However, it happens.

Technical Speed Requirements

Technique is the hallmark of elite football speed and control for an athlete. This is due to the fact that speed is 90 percent skill-derived and a thousand percent mental. When an athlete suits up to play, heís required to use the plastic armor to inflict impact to his opponent. Additionally, you use the gear to protect your life and limb and often youíre receiving a fair amount of blows. The nature of the game is contact. The challenge of maintaining speed skills becomes quite an ordeal.

Weíve Got Good News and Bad News

Good news - Working on speed skills during the season complements the salvation of the craft, now that we understand the dilemmas an athlete faces for speed retention. Frequency is one of the more pronounced assets for a player when we talk about speed retention. The good news is that retention can be held in check if you utilize a weekly process that involves the proper training scenarios.
Bad news - Ignore the importance of proper speed training during the season and youíll experience a loss of speed in each individual each week.

Bad news - Players become mechanically lazy when playing and seldom concern themselves with maintaining good mechanical techniques. When the green light goes off on a play, they must play fast and hard, but not sloppy. Sloppy mechanics creates under-par speed performance.

Good news - This doesnít have to happen. You have an opportunity to correct the technical running function during a play. Itís no different than any other technical aspect that youíre covering. It just takes a tiny bit more air from the lungs and a few words and itís covered with the problem corrected.

Good news - This application and method will work every time if we make the effort. Anytime and every time you see a problem with technical mistakes, provide corrective information and watch what happens.

Bad news - The reason why coaches usually donít provide this type of information to the athlete is simple. Itís not part of the program. To add something that would take a coaches mind off of an X or an O is not a sin.

Bad news - Continue to ignore quality speed work during the season and you will experience erosion that gets worse over the course of the season.

Good news Ė The long and short of it is simple. Football is a game of running and moving fast that requires constant training. Take the time and youíll have the best in-season speed possible.

Bad news - Too many coaches, during the season, are so busy that speed preservation and running is not a major concern. Many feel itís supposed to be fixed and in-place during the off-season. They just play during the season and only have time for football needs.

Good news - Speed emphasis in-season isnít that demanding.

Bad news - Speed training is still in a maturity stage in football. I hear this far more than I wish and I think, like anything, understanding the depth of a subject takes time.

Good news - Speed will keep maturing as a craft in football and will eventually get to a point of total understanding in the future.

Good news Ė What if the Indy 500 race cars didnít have pit stops to preserve what they brought to the track for high performance throughout the race? The same viewpoint can be compared to speed; that is, bringing it to the season without a plan to continue maintenance for high level delivery each week is a recipe for disaster.

Weíll attempt to cover solutions to the issue of in-season speed training.

In-Season Training Cues
for a Successful Year

I will share some thoughts and see if the values I project have a good fit for your program. If so, then this has been an article worth your time spent reading. The following ideas are listed for your use as in-season applications and theories accrued over the last 31 years of working with thousands and thousands of athletes and countless numbers of coaches and their programs.

ē Speed Training must be performed prior to practice so you have a fresh specimen for good neural function which gets lost during football. When an athlete is tired, which happens a great deal of the time on the field, he is not able to contract at a high rate needed for inducing the nervous system with the proper stimulus for enhancement.

ē Early in the season you want to mix mechanical foundation with speed training. Remember, the faster you run, the more potential breakdowns can occur mechanically.

ē Speed reps are to be intense when performed. Mechanics and rhythm go hand-in-hand with performance execution as overall objectives.

ē Suggested times per week for speed training Ė a maximum of two to three times.

ē 15-20 minutes is the suggested amount of time spent for training after warm-ups are completed.

ē Practices are useless unless focus is a major priority. You donít have a great deal of time to waste and motor processing takes place only if your athletes are executing the movements mentally and kinesthetically.

ē When we speed train as a team, we run light. Carrying a load is not the answer in-season or when high quality contraction is needed.

ē High recovery between speed efforts is critical. Without this, you might as well put on your uniform and go directly to football practice. If you underestimate this tactic, all is lost for what you would like to accomplish. Glycogen must restore within the muscles for proper contraction activity.

ē Mix your workouts up week-to-week and donít do the same running over and over. You wonít progress and the athletes will not be physically and/or mentally stimulated week-to-week.

ē Everything that the athletes do, they must do it to the best of their ability. Donít let this time fall prey to guys going through the motions to salvage energy for football practice. High intensity and mental involvement is the key to off-season and in-season speed growth. This is more so during the season rather than the off-season because you donít have the time to waste reps you could have had.

ē Not all speed training sessions should be lineal. Lateral and lineal can and should be mixed for football. The game is played on a straight line the majority of the time. Create practices where you mix movement and speed transitionally. Now and then see how the players are maintaining their speeds. Additionally, enter in some type of competitive work and be creative. One good drill athletes like is relays broken into two groups. Make sure they are emphasizing mechanics with intense competition.

ē Motor processing is delicate - remember this because volume is not needed to keep things sharp and fast. Cyclic rotations have a tremendous impact on motor behavior processing in short order and with minimal reps. Donít allow bad efforts or sloppy technique to plague your performances by the players.

You now have some things that I know will help during this yearís competition while keeping your speed good throughout the season.


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