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AFM Magazine


Running Ahead of Speed – Technical Foundation, the Heart of the Matter (Part III)

by: Dale Baskett
Football Speed Specialist
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What’s important for enhancing team speed for football? Too often, coaches don’t understand what skills help effectively produce football acceleration, change velocities and deliver burst capability. The essential skills are just that – essential. To produce these skills, you must realize that the bottom line is dependent on a sound foundational movement premise. Foundation simply refers to one fact that overrides all other factors; that is, technical application. Technique must always be the first thought when performing or coaching an athlete to run fast. Your foundation is built from technical principles that you use daily and weekly to process the motor patterns necessary for high frequency movement.

Reasoning for Technical Foundation

Foundation is often overlooked due to the lack of sound proven knowledge  available. If you’re involved in the effort of training athletes for football speed within your program, it’s mandatory to have a foundation to work from. Most of the drills and training applied in today’s football world encompass an atmosphere that’s busy but is not predicated on factual foundational theory or based on correct technical methods for movement applications.

Therefore, your potential is limited. So the question is, where do you get the drills and methods you provide for your players? Most likely they’re borrowed from many avenues, usually in pieces from here and there. Most often, you’ve acquired them along the way or researched the internet. You’ve got variety but the work you do is often missplaced and is not going to produce speed skills.

 I refer to this as the ‘tossed salad approach’, which requires blending pieces and putting them into some sort of order. When I say factual theories, I mean evaluating what you use as a pure technical function. Let me provide an example. Take a simple running application such as resisted speed work with a sled pull. This can generally be a sufficient method for creating force production to the ground which can enhance force adaptation per leg cycle while accelerating. Although this drill can be useful, it is limited if not equated with the technical skill foundation of movement when applied. Success for this drill will be minimized if your focus is placed only on energy and effort asserted. If so, you’re going to miss the more important element, which is good technical foundation movement. It’s the main objective to accomplish. One cannot center on the exercise value and be oblivious to technical function. Maximum results and growth depend on blending energy output with technical effectiveness.

This drill should center on a few key factors for it to provide force while emphasizing these techniques. The eyes should remain level at all times while hip level is up and the athlete is not bending at the waist. The elbows must stay in close to the sides to create a straight arm tracking alignment. Make sure the athlete remains on the ball of his foot strike each cycle consistently while accelerating. The torso should remain still which allows the limb rotation to reach higher frequency. The weight of the sled should be reasonably light. If not, you’ll defeat the optimal frequency you need to tap the nervous system adequately.

If your contraction is too slow because your sled is overweight, your velocity of acceleration will not be serviced correctly. There is much more to observe. However, I believe you understand the situation with my example of looking for foundational techniques that deliver a better result and, consequently, great speed development with force growth. Remember, force is fine but fast productive force is the ultimate desire. As you accelerate each step, the stride length will become longer automatically. But, losing rhythmical frequency will cause the acceleration to be somewhat retarded.

The Trap is Set - Think Beyond the Obvious

If you’re laying down a series of running activities in a given workout, they must have an overriding technical application or you’ve used the wrong lead. Step back and ask yourself if the drills are always technically foundational and relative or just merely a variety for the sake of covering all the bases. It’s important to note that variety is not the target for a workout. The amount of drills used often clouds the focus factor which can limit the control process of the skill development. It’s better to use fewer drills and teach the players to focus and be in charge of the movement skills consistently than centering on multitude and ignoring technical efficiency.

Always keep in mind that every drill must be relative to the technical premise being used. All movement is being recorded and therefore less used and applied more accurately which will return a great recall of movement spontaneity week-to-week. If you use methods without focus, you’re merely filling too many gaps and it becomes pure entertainment instead of value.

Don’t fall into this trap. Stop, think, and visualize a better plan for processing valuable teaching principles versus busy work for the sake of busy work. Stay focused outside the box and remember that steady, quality progress will result in a strong finish when it counts.

Ideas to Benefit From

•  If your athletes are getting speed tired (frequency of limb speed is dissipating after numerous reps), cut the session short.
•  Watch your work load as you design it. Less is more and you can add as they adapt over time. Don’t try to get fast in one week. Be steady. You can always increase volume as your off season progresses.
•  Eyes are always level with every drill or movement procedure. Try this on the ladders.
•  Keep elbows in close to the body on sprint phase work and multi-movement work as well. This foundational procedure will help your foot strike placement to stay under center as the athlete moves from stride to stride on all drill activity where football speed is applied.
•  Eliminate bending at the waist when movement transition occurs, whether it be angles or velocity changes.


Coach Baskett began his career as a football speed coach in 1979. During the last 36 years he’s consulted and trained hundreds of coaches and thousands of athletes nationwide. In the last year he has worked directly with high schools in California, Texas, Minnesota, Kansas, and Pennsylvania. Over the last few years he has also consulted with Texas Tech, Ohio State, USC, University of Washington, and the University of Mount Union. You can reach him directly for more information or if you have specific questions on your training program. Coach Baskett is at dbspeedt@hotmail.com and 858-568-3751.






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