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Speed Report: The Off-Season - Preparing for Advanced Level Training

by: Dale Baskett
Football Speed Specialist
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When you begin the off-season with speed training, one of your major challenges will be organizing and periodizing your product. Obviously your periodization scheme stretches over many months. Your design is critical to the success of the progression you expect to gain during the year. One area that can be a little tricky and can have a distinct affect on your development for team speed is working with large numbers of players who are at two different levels of ability.

My experience with this stems from putting the varsity and junior varsity groups together for training at the same time. The outcome favors neither group. The older kids have greater experience and are in need of advanced skill drills and formats that address their talent level. When you apply such procedures, the young learner has a limited foundational aptitude to handle the skill demands. So both lose and so does your program development. The same is true for the more experienced athlete who is in need of advanced implementation. The best solution for this dilemma is to divide and conquer.

They both must be working apart. How you do this is, as stated earlier, tricky. I train someone else to work with base foundational application for the new kids and I handle the advanced group. This works well for all concerned. The system is set up so the younger kids who excel can move up to the advanced group as they show the skill as the off-season progresses. Itís a great incentive plan for those who want to achieve and it bolsters confidence. The other way is to divide the groups side by side Ė one group runs and then the other group runs. This is a tough project to pull off but Iíve done it many times. The division is really the quality route. The following thoughts and suggestions will hopefully help you construct your system to function adequately throughout the year. This article is designed to cover ideas that will help you formulate ways to assemble good sound training practicum that you can use for your program demands based on your individual situations.
1. Periodization: Itís Critical

Hard start, softer finish. Easy start, harder finish. Take your pick but one thing is for sure Ė you must begin with fundamentals. This structure provides consistent development and secure control for athletic speed and movement. Football speed is different than linear sprint speed as we have discussed in past issues. It is truely a different training process and multi-dynamic in nature compared to linear speed work. This is why the foundation training for mechanical execution must be the first thing you address.
2. Foundation Principles

The foundational principles applied will carry over to everything you do performance wise. Youíll also be reflecting back to the base structure often because of its relativity to human movement. Human movement has consistent biomechanical applications which are governing and must be applied right for maximal success.

3. Load Work Early
So much is made of resisted (load work) and assisted (assisting velocity movement) sprint training when people talk speed training. They both can have a positive affect on development; however, as I view the speed world it is often applied incorrectly. First, for the application there is usually too much resistance and the modality lasts all year long. Resistance for speed work must be a minimal resistance to the velocity. They cannot be so taxing that technique and velocity are hampered, which defeats the purpose of applying force and frequency during sprint activities. So think about the upcoming season and how you will arrange the resistance modes. Secondly, you need to look at the time frames for utilizing resistance work. The early part of the off-season is best to acclimate the understanding of force application necessary for speed, acceleration and burst characteristics. This goes along with the foundation of mechanics being schooled early, as well, during this period. If you roll into March and are still using resisted applications thatís okay but as long as by April youíre completed with the application.
4. Assisted Speed Training
Assisted speed work is usually done with some type of towing tool that creates greater velocity than one can individually perpetuate on their own accord. The two things that I suggest if using this type of training is that you use a form of assistance that can somewhat enhance velocity but not over do it. Too much speed, even though it attacks the nervous system, can inhibit the technical function that is paramount to speed development. Too often people make more of this application than is necessary. Force application and frequency are far more important to football speed than top end speed enhancement to the nervous system. Thatís not to say that the neural system isnít the key to physiological development, because it is. However the sport of football is reliant upon maximizing acceleration, quickness, and displacement of body mass with velocity control. To spend too much time on high-end velocity will be counterproductive to football speed. Let me plead my case briefly. Iíve worked with world-class sprinters, including one, Michael Bates, a five-time All-Pro kick return specialist while with the Carolina Panthers and now retired. He was a bronze medalist in the 1992 Olympics and a football player who was cut from two football teams in the NFL until he learned how to displace linear momentum. God knows he had plenty of linear speed. Displacing momentum is a skill and many who have great linear speed donít possess the movement skill. So donít spend too much of your off season on linear speed. Football is about multi-movement speed.

I had a call tonight from a dad who had a kid in high school who is a six foot, 180 pound linebacker playing varsity football. He runs a 5.1, 40 yard dash and his dad said he would like to see him run a 4.7, which would put him into the mix with the other backers on his team. My comment to him was how often as a linebacker does he run 40 yards when the ball is snapped? The answer was obvious. The prescription would be how quick is he and how well does he move laterally and change direction with mass velocity when the ball is snapped. Visualize what specificity speed is and apply it whenever necessary.

Coach Baskett began his career as a football speed coach in 1979. During the last 34 years heís 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 and 858-568-3751.


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