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Speed Report: Visual Cues Deliver Exceptional Speed

by: Dale Baskett
Football Speed Specialist
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Football players must rely heavily on having good field vision in order to play fast and move effectively. It’s a huge benefit having good visual skills which enhances “transition speed”. More specifically, angle and velocity changes executed with maximum velocity. Many athletes are naturally gifted with good visual skills. Unfortunately, many athletes also struggle with this skill. The good news is that you can develop this ability by using designed drills correctly and specific cues and techniques accurately.

Identifying the Source 

To begin, you must set up movement drills which can be position specific, if needed. As a coach you must watch the eyes of the players that go through the drill set-up. Watch closely the eye positioning as players’ negotiate movement changes. Some of the players will surprise you with their lack of eye skill application.

The first rule is to keep their eyes forward and level during all movements. This will keep the body mass centered in relation to foot strike which, in turn, will help balance the control of all movements. Peripheral vision is the most important ability to have or develop. The arms and legs should be moving rapidly during aggressive movements. If the eyes are directed properly, the limb speed will be sustained with minimal dissipation. When the eyes look down or are in a tunnel vision mode, the visual acuity will not operate well and transition speed will suffer. Hesitation becomes a hindrance to velocity on various motions when the eyes don’t remain level and forward.

Production Tools

The key is always technique. So let’s set up drills that you can use to teach players to see well which will benefit transitional velocity. The information is established so you can help your athletes. The drills that follow will challenge speed control performance. The drills will be arranged to have at least three transition movements in each one. The idea is to challenge the players to see the drill set up before they run through the various angle changes. The objective is to have the athletes use their mind’s eye first and see the task visually.

Designed strategies establish challenges to transition speeds. The determining factor for success will be measured by how well each movement is performed with fast transitions. The drills will probably give your players fits when they first perform them at a high velocity. It’s important to go slowly at first and add more speed little by little.
Common Errors

Don’t be a coach who’s afraid to challenge the players with difficult tasks. Their saving grace will be creating the eye skills to see ahead and visualize the task. Human performance is something you can improve with every athlete. You just need to know the details for having them improve their performance.

As you apply the following drills, don’t be afraid to be creative with challenging movements you create yourself. Remember, you will be able to make corrections. The benefit will be having athletes who play fast. Be patient with the step by step development. Each week and  each session they will fail often while progressing. Some will grasp it sooner than others. However, they will all improve significantly if you are patient and consistent with your applications.

Visual Control Techniques

The following drills must be executed with the technical assertions applied. They are drills that can be useful for providing new visual skills. Here are the key points of application for you to apply to each drill:

Diagram 1

Diagram 2

Diagram 3

Diagram 4

•  For each drill, have the players visualize right before they release into the drill.

•  As they plant at each cone to change direction, make sure they keep eyes level.

•  Don’t try to step close to the cones. Rather, react to the direction changes as the eyes peripherally see the cones strategically placed.  

•  Don’t look down at the cones. Have your eyes forward at all times. This should be executed on every drill.

•  Use cones that are 9-10 inches tall at a minimum. Flat discs don’t work well for visual work.
•  The cones are too close to the ground for good visual reading.

•  Keep the hips up on all transitions and eyes level.

•  Don’t throw your head to initiate direction change. It will disturb the rotational rhythm of the arms and legs and will effect the transition speed negatively.

•  Always keep your eyes forward when planting while making direction changes.

•  All movement begins from the ground up. The step downward creates force from the ground which comes back to the athlete lineally. 

•  Force travels upward (lineally) from the ground through the leg, torso and head.

•  The body parts must be aligned as force comes up from the ground.

•  Ban all drill work with the eyes looking at the ground. The eyes stay forward at all times in football.

•  You must see the zone changes visually before you make the changes required by the cone set up. Athletes tend to try to figure out quick changes on a multiple zone drill as they traverse through the changes too late. They must see the changes prior to the release at the top of the drill.

•  Visualizing the changes before will allow the athletes to move significantly faster through all transitions.

•  Last, but not least, challenge them to not slow down just prior to movement changes. Common human response is to decelerate the momentum acquired, thus losing valuable transition speed.

Always go slow at first then turn the speed up as the learning curve improves.

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 and 858-568-3751.


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