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The Challenges of Teaching Football Speed

by: Dale Baskett
Football Speed Specialist
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The first step toward teaching football speed is dealing with velocity and angles that change rapidly. Secondly, you must provide a progressive training system that is relative to speed and movement physically, mentally, and technically. The nature of the game provides various challenges to movement speed, angle changes, frequency changes, and rapid acceleration. Your teaching must fit these practicums because, unlike track sprinting, the technical application for football speed is not all linear. In fact, technical control is being challenged each time linear velocity is displaced. This makes football speed and movement very complex. Rotational synchronization (synch) of arms and legs becomes altered instantly when the velocity of movement is directionally displaced. No matter how small the displacement of movement change, the loss will immediately impact frequency and synch. A comprehensive, yet specific plan of training must be in place if you wish to reach the maximum potential of every player.

Applications That Must be Considered

The first consideration is understanding the importance of the aspects involved for developing football speed and movement.

Physical Applications - Everyone has certain genes that are outside of the developmental process. The element that is most important to speed of movement is force. Some athletes produce excellent force genetically and some don’t. The weight room and plyometrics can certainly advance the power production for each player. The physical can clearly be improved. The differing part of this equation is that certain people can become much stronger than others physiologically. However, the fact is that we can all reach our potential even though we’re physically different. That being the case, everyone can improve their power index which allows athletes the ability to deliver more force.

Mental Applications - This factor interacts for every sport in variable ways. The mental is the most important aspect for all sports. Where speed training is concerned, it is equally important but more discredited than it should be. My concern is that it’s not utilized right when we train for speed and movement. Athletes have a tendency to not concentrate on the kinetic aspects when performing drills and sprints. As a coach, it will be imperative to demand focus of everyone if you wish to improve maximum team speed.

Technical Application – In many articles, I have emphasized this point.  Technical application is the most important aspect for gaining speed – period. Power and strength are important but, all the power in the world will not counter the fact that the faster limbs rotate and velocity increases, the more difficult it is to control limb sequence. Remember, running is a continuous limb activity and control and power must mix to maximize speeds. Power without technical control will not improve speed.

Football Speed Prerequisites

1. Acceleration Control -

Acceleration is derived by the amount of force applied to each step. More force equals more movement. However, there are other factors which will aid in making force more prolific. In tracking alignment, keep the arms and legs cycling straight, front to back. Keeping elbows in will be an immensely more effective aid for controlling straight cycle direction.

2. Acceleration Pattern –

Each step taken that applies force should begin with a short stride pattern. Each following stride should progressively get longer, step by step. If the athlete rotates too long from a static position, he will have trouble balancing velocity and stride length.

3. Frequency Changes –

This is one of the most dynamic requirements for football speed. Intense frequency is at the heart of why football speed and track workouts are two different entities. Football movement by position relies on the execution of intense frequency. In track, acceleration has a longer range parameter for maximizing velocity. Football must rely on frequency and force combined to cover shorter distances rapidly. What’s even more important is the ability to shut down quickly and then regenerate tremendous force for frequency and power acceleration again in a microsecond.

Teaching Plan for Football Speed
Must be Right

You must direct your efforts toward motor imprint perfection every time you execute speed and movement drills. This is the essence of what football speed training is about – minimizing movements that are not relative to speed transitions for football. Perfect practice makes perfect, not practice makes perfect. That simply means that more is less and less is more. It doesn’t take much to process speed improvement if reps are done well. It’s pure quality and non-fatigue training with high recovery.

Movement techniques for football speed are my life. Invariably, many teaching principles are lacking scientifically sound speed and movement applications in programs at every level when it comes to speed development. Fatigue vs. quality training is the culprit in most cases, not to mention poor mechanics. The technical world relies on track sprint techniques. But track techniques just don’t work for football. You must have a teaching plan that starts with sound and accurate teaching techniques and moves slowly and accurately.

Then, it progressively moves faster week-by-week, step-by-step when it comes to football speed. A structured system will have a core mechanical premise and drills that support that premise and not based on track sprint techniques. Track sprint applications do not relate to football speed. Ninety percent of football coaches in America are using track sprint techniques for the base foundation of their teaching plan for speed and movement skill. Track techniques will not work when movement changes are required at high rates of velocity. Football speed techniques are 180 degrees different. 

What’s Needed to Teach Football Speed 

1. A base system of true mechanical speed skill principles, not track skill techniques.

2. Eliminate the apparatus being used. Replace it with a sound biomechanical system for motor processing; i.e.,” Football Speed Techniques.”

3. Train players to: accelerate, change directions rapidly, alter velocity with control, be ballistic in short space, enhance quickness, and technically execute speed changes.

4. A step-by-step system to technically refine motor pattern imprints.

5. A year-long periodization design for elevating power, movement skills, and development of the nervous system.

6. Athletic movement confidence: The better your athletes understand the execution and control aspects of mechanical function, the more they become confident to move faster on all changes presented.

7. Progressive system of motor processing drills that stair step the learning curve from slow to fast. A progressive design over a length of time.

8. Once you’ve reached the high intensity phase of training, it’s mandatory that you apply high recovery between sprints. You must always be fresh to tap the nervous system when inducing sprint work, or you’ll flat line instead of developing your speed.

Dale Baskett began his career as a football speed specialist in 1979. Over the last 33 years he has worked with hundreds of coaches and thousands of players nationwide. He has also trained over 100 NFL players representing every NFL team. Baskett has consulted with the football staffs of numerous colleges throughout the country and has worked with the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association and numerous NFL organizations. You can contact him at 858-568-3751 or at


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