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AFM Magazine

Developing Quickness in Your Players Part I

by: Dale Baskett
Football Speed Specialist
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All coaches recognize quickness when they see it but don’t usually understand how to develop it. As coaches we will inherit certain kids with quickness skills. The question is to what degree can quickness be developed. The answer – to the level of potential of each athlete. Not every athlete will be as capable as the next but each will get better if the right training applications are involved.

Beyond the Fallacy

We begin by challenging coaches’ belief that natural ability alone leads to team quickness. Improving the skill of human movement is accomplished by the application of technical and physical training. However, we must first realize that all quickness movement is a by-product of genetics. Fast-twitch fiber is genetically inherited. Certain players possess higher ratios of fast-twitch than others. In other words, all of your athletes are different.

Determining What Makes it Doable

Quickness is determined by rapid muscle contraction. How fast the muscle fiber can contract in a given moment of time. The rapidness of contraction is a reaction of the physical nervous system to fire quickly and engage muscle contraction, which moves limbs rapidly. Certain individuals possess more fast-twitch composition within their physiological makeup.

Comprehensive Methods for Quickness

Motor movement patterns for quickness are induced by attacking the nervous system properly with high-twitch-cycle frequency of limb activity. You have to run fast to be fast, you also must induce high-twitch muscle contraction to be quick. New motor movement patterns are the key to changing the neural processing that’s necessary. Quickness training requires that the athletes experience new imprints of motor movement patterns. Every individual has certain motor patterns established that are currently programmed to perform at will when called upon. These patterns are the ones that have been built in from years of activity and usually with zero training for running correctly.
The old patterns must be consciously re-established with new motor patterns if we expect quickness traits to change. “Consciously” means to focus on the new movements being taught and consciously control the new movements as instructed.

The tendency for firing of neural patterns is usually something we don’t think about. When we run, we just run. When an athlete is presented with new input, he must feel the movement consciously and control it throughout the drill being performed. The important aspect of this task is that running is a continuous-movement endeavor. Limb movement doesn’t stop cyclically when your goal is to arrive at point B.

Specificity of biomechanics and accurate motor patterns inserted into training routines must be executed well and the athlete must focus and control the parameters he is dealing with. Remember, as coaches we must infiltrate and the athlete must initiate. We can’t perform for them - they must absorb and control their movements successfully. This task requires concentration during workouts and recall by each athlete to feel the phases they go through. The sooner athletes can perform well from word pictures, the sooner we can make successful inroads as a coach. The key aspect of this process is to train athletes to visualize word pictures, and then execute them with fluid accuracy. Terminology aids for stimulating proper pictures. Keep terminology consistent. This pre-described scenario is very important if we expect to infiltrate so they can initiate. This concept is as important as the drill procedures which will administer the physical. The most important, however, is the mental.

Belief Systems Move the Rock

As we discussed previously, we know that the mental aspect of sports and training is huge. Our jobs as coaches is to sell concepts to the athletes and in turn receive buy-in. Becoming quick requires a desire by the players involved to want to be quick. We must educate them to the degree that knowledge being imparted indicates that what they have experienced in the past doesn’t count. They are a product of where they have been and what they have learned, good or bad. Our job is to impart good not bad and clarify what the difference is. Athletes who are not quick have no clue as to the feeling of what quickness is like. That means that the majority of your players have never interpreted the feeling of turning limbs quickly. The good news is that they can become associated with the feeling.

Next month, we will continue discussing the development of quickness with the implementation of the on-field training with drills.


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