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Speed Report: The History of Football Speed Development in America (Part II)

by: Dale Baskett
Football Speed Specialist
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In part one, we chronicled the history of football and weight training changes over the years. My point of emphasis was to provide you with insight to the path football speed has taken. The amazing thing about the history of football speed is that there isn’t a recorded history to be found. This article will summarize where it began and where it is today.
I was the first football speed coach in America. I began coaching football and track sprints in 1968 at the high school level. The only sprints for football in those days were called wind sprints, a conditioning term as opposed to today’s speed development.

While at a junior college in 1978, two football players approached me about helping them develop their speed. I agreed to help them after practice two days per week. In short order, the two athletes showed real improvement. A light then went off in my mind. Where do athletes go for help in their various sports if they want to improve speed? By the end of 1979, I was working with training groups informally, not commercially. By 1980, I had formed a speed development company. It was the first national commercial football speed organization.

The First Sport Utilized for Football Speed Development
The answer, of course, is track. During the Boyd Epley strength training era at Nebraska, speed was a secondary priority. Epley brought track speed knowledge after establishing his weight training program that became the model for other programs, which soon followed.

Unfortunately, track presents the wrong methods for football. The shortest track sprint is 100 meters and non-specific for football. Football involves constant acceleration, applying various speeds and angle changes. Acceleration is the major factor for football speed. Reaching maximum speed takes 40-50 yards. Most plays in football range from 5 to 15 yards.

The exception is receivers and defensive backs. They sprint deep at times but hardly ever 100 yards at a time. Even if they’re running 40 to 50 yards deep, they have to consider the flight of the ball, the coverage they see, and angle changes. DBs have similar issues. It’s not pure uninterrupted lineal speed from point A to B.

Remember, football speed relies on accurate mechanical execution on each step. Speed is the most delicate skill set because it’s goal is gaining continuous velocity while controlling torso and limb sequence. Track cannot parallel this phenomenon because it’s pure lineal speed without momentum interruption; that is, first one to the finish line wins.

Look Outside the Box: Football Speed is Different
When I first began to put together a speed system for teaching, it was important that track was not the focus. My football and track background changed the way I perceived what speed needed to be for football. In 1980, I began designing a series of short lineal training packages for football speed and movement. The objective was to apply proper biomechanical applications for acceleration and change of directions and frequencies. Mechanics must be taught lineally first. Then you move to momentum displacement work as a secondary phase. Track techniques that were used and are still currently used are counter-productive to this theory. When velocity of human movement is displaced from a lineal plane, mechanical function is instantly altered. Track speed training doesn’t cover momentum displacement because it’s purely lineal. All of my work was focused on biomechanical specific speed characteristics that address displacement speed. Time spent on the 40’s squanders too much time for what little it delivers for football speed.

Track Keeps its Foothold
In the mid 90’s, a new breed of speed coach began to surface. They were individuals who had received the CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) certification. They began to claim a rite of passage to teach speed based on their CSCS credential, even though CSCS had nothing to do with speed as a certification. Speed instructors then surfaced across the country, asserting the credential CSCS as authenticity. The difference between weight training certification and speed development are two different entities.

In addition came another variety of speed coach, the ex-NFL player turned speed training coach. Suddenly, speed authenticity only required a famous name, often unassociated with speed. Knowledge and proven expertise wasn’t an issue, just name recognition. Many came and most are now gone. Today, we have thousands of speed coaches throughout the country and the internet is jammed with speed training sites and the hype that accompanies each site. All I have researched still use track drills for speed development. I have yet to find one who is teaching mechanics that are non-track oriented. Everyone is using practically the same applications; that is, follow the leader, the track world.

A New Wave of Training Arrives
From the late 90’s to today, we began to see a new concept for training speed. A number of new track techniques arrived and were promoted heavily by the track community, supposedly helpful for football speed. These techniques and drills were introduced consistently at national clinics over a two-to-three year period. The drills caught on like wildfire throughout the country. They are well known today as the A-Run Drill and B-Drill, skips, flips, hops, stationary leg cycle rotations, extended foot-paw drills, push up sprints, sand sprints, pool running, belt resist release sprints, power bands, steep hill sprints and many more. However, none of them relate to the technical application required for sound football speed and movement.
Right on the heels of this new drill campaign was the introduction of numerous equipment items being manufactured for speed training. The equipment world began to provide what I call ”toys for boys” entertainment devices. This included parachutes, sleds, ladders, weighted leg gear, power shoes, bungees, harnesses, straps, little hurdles and many other kinds of resistance apparatus. Each item made amazing claims about their specific product. Primarily, that one item could do it all. Quick-fix items are not fraudulent, but speed development isn’t a quick-fix skill.

What’s the Future of Football Speed
Where’s the future of speed for football? Track drills and equipment will be in place for awhile, even though they’re a limited resource. However, I have developed a new direction of my own creation for the football community: The Football Speed and Movement Association. It is designed for you, the football coach. The overall goal is to help you with the latest speed training knowledge and teaching systems relative to football. Track techniques cannot and will not accomplish this objective. Equipment is undercutting the progress for real speed and movement running skills. They rely too much on the implementation of equipment instead of the actual teaching of how to be a better athlete. Football needs an organization in place that’s available for coaches to have their own football speed community with programs that are designed by people who understand the required movements of their game. If you would like more information on FSMA (Football Speed and Movement Association) feel free to contact me via email (


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