Teaching the Lateral Shuffle

By Craig White

It is possible to have a good training program, but that doesn’t make one a good strength and conditioning coach. I have returned to my office after many training sessions pondering how I could improve upon the lifts or drills just performed. The common problem I have observed during agility training is that athletes will anticipate the movements in a reaction agility drill. The athlete has muddled the goal of the drill in an effort to complete the drill first. Competition has compromised the drill and reinforced sloppy movement mechanics.

Reaction drills are a great choice for agility training because the movement pattern is not a pre-planned action that the athlete knows ahead of time. Reaction drills can easily be modified to match the demands of any agility movement specific to any sport. Most sports are based on unplanned movement patterns in response to the constantly changing game environment. Very rarely, only on set plays, will an athlete be able to follow a pre-planned movement pattern. Reaction drills will have the most sport transference of all agility drills.

 

cues Teaching the Lateral Shuffle

One important training note is that many other training parameters must be given equal attention to enhance lateral agility skills. Agility can be improved by performing agility training alone, but an athlete will not reach an optimal level without adequate lower body strength, hip mobility, lower body stability throughout the ankles, knees, and hips, speed, and balance. Although this can seem like an overwhelming list of things to train, it is important to analyze sport movements and identify how the movement can be improved. Any well planned training program that includes strength and agility training will address these qualities. Only in rare instances where an athlete is deficit in one of the above mentioned qualities should additional programming be prescribed.

Perhaps a more simple approach to preparing for agility training has been suggested by Mike Boyle. He identifies three qualities that an athlete should possess for optimal lateral agility training: single leg strength is necessary to propel movement; eccentric strength is necessary to decelerate or brake the movement; and proprioceptive stability is necessary to maintain body control.

Now that the functional characteristics that apply to lateral agility have been addressed, it is time to address how to plan a training session. Beginning with the warm-up, it is important to work in many lateral based movements. Lateral exercises like lunges, skips, and bounding prepare the body for lateral movement by stimulating specific motor patterns and “stressing the abductors and adductors” (Boyle, 2004).

As the dynamic flexibility warm-up ends, lateral shuffles can be added as part of the warm-up and to begin working on movement technique. There is no end to the warm-up and beginning of the next drill, you just smoothly transition into practicing the shuffle techniques in the same space as if it is a continuation of the warm-up. Essentially, this progression of exercises is time efficient and the athletes are focused, fresh, and warmed up. It is the optimal time to train athletes’ proper mechanics and see the best results.

A shuffle progression to follow begins with a walking shuffle from a beginning point to an end point marked by cones or a line. Athletes should begin in an athletic stance on the balls of their feet, with feet under the hips, and toes turned out very slightly. This is a very subjective observation because as the speed of the drills begins to increase, athletes will turn their toes out to gain greater acceleration. The problem is this mechanic slows the changing of direction. It is crucial to reinforce proper technique throughout the early progressions at slow speeds. A coach must repeat simple verbal cues, and take time to demonstrate proper technique, which could result in the coach will feel more redundant than the athletes will perceive. Many athletes have never been taught some of these techniques, and need constant reinforcement to master the movement. Begin each session with a basic slow shuffle to reinforce the proper technique and continue working up the progression each session to provide the athletes with a challenge. If you progress too slowly, the athletes will lose interest and not value the drills.

Below is a shuffle progression that can be applied to any agility session:

1. slow shuffle
2. slow shuffle + change of direction
3. fast shuffle
4. fast shuffle + change of direction
5. reactive shuffle + change of direction

Performing the reactive shuffle is the best way to challenge the athletes and simulate more sport-like situations in which the athlete must react to the change of direction. Rather than performing a drill that emphasizes a shuffle to a mark, the drill emphasizes maintaining a fast reaction to shuffle in the correct direction. I have had great success at improving lateral quickness and better focus from athletes by implementing this training strategy.

When properly applied, lateral shuffle drills can be very valuable. It teaches a fundamental movement pattern in sports. These drills allow athletes to master the movement without confusing the athlete and reinforcing improper techniques. Although the drills may not seem very challenging, spending 8 reps practicing these drills can be a tough agility drill on the athletes. A carefully prescribed lateral shuffle progression is unlike other agility drills because few other agility exercises require the athlete to maintain an athletic position throughout the drill, or use as many muscle contractions and eccentric actions to initiate agility cuts.

cues Teaching the Lateral Shuffle

References:

Boyle, M. (2004). Functional Training for Sports. Human Kinetics: Champaign, IL.

About The Author:

Craig White, CSCS
Head Strength & Conditioning Coach
Marist College

RAA Teaching the Lateral Shuffle


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When Can I Fit Agility Training into My Program

By Lee Taft

I certainly get asked many questions about my techniques and how I teach agility, but one of the biggest questions I get asked is when do I put agility in my program. I get this from the fitness professional but more so from the sport coach. It is the sport coach that wants to know how to find time to fit agility into an already packed practice plan. In this article I want to share several ways I implement agility into any program, and why it is a must to find time.

Most sport coaches are so excited to practice the newest offense or defense or implement new drills they discovered. But many of them bypass one of the most important elements of making a good team- improving team speed, agility, and quickness. The question that always comes back to me is when do I fit it in my practice. The problem comes from coaches that feel you must put quantity ahead of quality. Those who know me realize I am all about quality. I want great movers. I can condition them easy enough, but to make them great at moving- it takes time and attention to detail.

cues When Can I Fit Agility Training into My Program

I will give you some times slots that agility training can fit neatly into a practice and make a big impact. But before I do, let me explain the mind set that goes into scheduling agility during a sport practice. If my goal is to improve the movement ability of the athletes I need to focus on the skill or technique of the movement pattern. For example; if I am a volleyball coach and I want my players to move quicker to tipped balls I must teach them how to react quickly out of the defensive ready position. My focus then will be on a few things;

1) I want the athletes to have appropriate body positions so they can move efficiently.
2) I want 100% effort or intensity of speed when reacting and moving to the ball.
3) I want complete control of the movement so a counter move can be made if needed.

Now, let’s focus on scheduling agility into a practice. One of the best times to implement agility is right after the warm up routine. The athletes are fresh and you can make a big impact on their nervous system. A great way to implement the agility is to pick a skill that you want to teach and be really focused on that skill for the 2-5 minutes you allow for training it. Once again, go back to the 3 points I made in the last paragraph. I want the athletes learning to move better each and every repetition. I don’t want them to just do work. A great example of an agility workout I use often is teaching the crossover technique. I would set it up like this:

  1. 1). Have 2-4 athletes performing at the same time (if it was a large team like soccer or football I would have more than one station with assistants watching as well. You might have to deal with more than 2-4 athletes if you don’t have any coaching assistants).
  2. 2). The exercise should be clearly explained and demonstrated if needed.
  3. 3). It is important to give them a setting in which the skill would be used in a sport. This helps clarify the purpose of the skill.
  4. 4). Give them the distance of travel that should be covered and the duration of the exercise.
  5. 5). Start the exercise from a great starting stance/athletic stance.
  6. 6). If you see a dysfunctional crossover technique, address that athlete by name immediately and give one quick coaching cue to correct the movement.
  7. 7). If you see a consistent theme of poor movements by most of the athletes, re-demonstrate and continue on with the exercise.
  8. 8). Complete 4-6 reps making sure each rep is quality or at least quality instruction is being given to correct poor patterns.
  9. 9). Build a foundation of movement that greater skills can be built upon.

 

This way of coaching the skills make the athlete concentrate 100% of their energy on one skill or combination of skills. If you teach too many different skills and you run the athletes through without emphasizing the technique and intensity of effort, the meaning of the skills is lost. Do exercises to get a point across and to teach something!

Let’s keep moving along with times to inject agility into a practice. Another great time to coach agility is just before or after a drink break. The way that I like to mention it to the athletes is like this; .Ok guys/gals, before we take our drink break I want you to put all your focus into an extremely important skill we are about to learn- then we will take a good breather and get hydrated.. By phrasing it this way, I have put a sense of importance on the skill and the athletes better be focused and prepared to give 2-5 more minutes of attention to the skill.

There is no doubt that the best time to make a big improvement and impact on the learning of a skill is when the athlete is in a non-fatigued state. But athletes need to learn how to move efficiently during fatigued times of a game, like in the final minutes. So the last time I would like to mention as to when a coach could implement agility is at the end of the practice. I strongly recommend not teaching a new skill at this time due to the lack of focus generally associated with the end of practice.

If the athletes are comfortable with the agility skill to be used I do feel there is some importance to having them perform it at the end. But as mentioned already don’t throw a new skill at them and expect great learning to occur when they are fatigued. Let me give some important points to implement this method of agility training:

 

1). Because the athletes are tired and don’t have as much mental focus left you must give them something to focus on. For example; if you are coaching them on a hip turn and crossover to defend a basketball player making an offensive move to the basket you must talk to them about a defense scheme. In other words you are trying to coach the skill, but by giving the athletes a scenario that will occur in the game they will have a built in focus point due to the game-like setting.

2). Be sure to stop the exercise if the execution gets sloppy. Always remember the brain is programming the patterns. If they are sloppy that is how they will be programmed in the brain. Demand great execution.

3). It is important to ask the athletes what they did wrong if the execution was poor. This way you are holding them accountable for their improvement. This is especially important when doing the skill work under fatigue. You force them to be aware of everything they do.

cues When Can I Fit Agility Training into My Program

So there are a few ways you can implement agility training into a sports practice setting. Now let me talk about when agility training should be in the athletic development setting.

Just as mentioned above, the agility can be included in a non-fatigued state or in a fatigued state. Both are important but must have protocol. When first introducing the skill it should obviously be done in the early part of the training session. Once learned and performed well it can be done in a fatigued state to induce a concentration element.

Here are a few rules I follow when coaching agility in an athletic development setting:

1). I will only coach 2-3 agility drills per session. I want the athletes to learn something and not be inundated with too much stimulus. When they only concentrate on a couple things they can absorb them and put a meaning to them. I believe it is important to always give them a situation the skill would be used in a sport. This helps them to relate to it much easier.
2). I keep my time frames in the 5-12 second range and demand intensity of effort or speed. I want effort for a couple reasons:
a. This is how I get a read on their true ability with the skill
b. They learn the skill at full speed. Doing a skill half speed makes it a different skill in many ways.
3). I want the athletes to understand self correction on the fly. This means if the athletes screw the skill up on one rep he or she can quickly make the needed correction during the set. This is why I ask them questions about the skills- I want accountability.
4). The total time of agility training is usually around 15 to 20 minutes. This includes coaching time and feedback. I don’t believe in making an agility session in conditioning. When it is time for conditioning I will work on low risk exercises that cause an anaerobic threshold response.

 

So there you have it. This is by no means the only way to do this but it is the only way I do it. And it has worked for many years. The number one message to take from this article is to teach skills. Don’t waste the athletes. time with doing aimless drills without a message. You will do a great job!

About The Author:

Lee Taft is nationally recognized as a top athletic movement specialist. He has his M.S. in Sports Science from the United States Sports Academy and is certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), a Sports Performance Coach certified by USA Weightlifting (SPC) and he is also a certified Level 1 Track and Field Coach by the USA Track & Field (USATF level I). Lee serves as Executive Vice President for the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA), the premier international authority with respect to athletic development and young athlete-based conditioning and also speaks on the Perform Better tour.

To learn more about Lee or to contact him go to either of his websites:
www.SportsSpeedEtc.com
www.LeeTaftSpeedAcademy.com

RAA When Can I Fit Agility Training into My Program


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Effortless Speed, Agility, and Quickness

By Lee Taft

A close look at what it really takes to improve your reaction time, speed, agility and quickness. Without understanding this concept of training, all the speed and agility drills in the world won’t make you any quicker!

Applying Newton’s Third Law of “Action-Reaction” to Make Your Athletes Faster
Maybe it’s time to dust off the old science books and take a hard look at the science behind speed, quickness and agility- Nah! All you really need to do is look at Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Action-Reaction. Simply stated, it says for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. How does this apply to speed, quickness and agility? When an athlete makes a cut or comes out of the blocks, there is a quick force applied in the opposite direction of travel. The force created into the ground or blocks, in this example, will be met with an equal force coming back at the foot. As long as the object the foot is applying force to is stable and is not giving way to the foot, action and reaction forces should be equal.

Now, how can this be applied to speed, quickness, and agility or overall athletic movement in any direction? There are a few techniques that must take place for the athlete to take advantage of Newton’s Law of Action-Reaction.

cues Effortless Speed, Agility, and Quickness

The first technique is to use the reaction force from the ground as quickly as possible by not absorbing with a big flexion of the knees and hips. For example, if a basketball player is playing defense and in a shuffling action to stay with the ball handler, and the ball handler quickly changes direction, the defensive player must react and quickly apply force into the ground in the opposite direction of travel to move with the ball handler. If the defensive player allows his hips to drop significantly or shoulders to sway side to side or forward, this will have a definite impact on how quickly the change of direction is made. The reaction force out of the ground will have been dissipated because of too much absorption by the hips and/or swaying of the shoulders. The athletes must learn to apply force with stable joints to take advantage of the reaction from the ground. This may help you to see the importance of low level, quick response, multi-directional plyometrics in improving agility and quickness.

The second technique is to apply force into the ground at an angle that allows the body to be pushed in the direction of travel most efficiently, known as the angle of force application. In performing a lateral shuffle, the angle of the power leg (the leg pushing the body in the direction of travel) must be positioned such that it doesn’t create an “up lift” of the body by positioning the feet too far under the hips, or a slipping effect by positioning the feet on too wide an angle outside the hips. The angle of application is even more critical when talking about stopping and changing direction. The angle of the leg stopping the body must be correct in order to be efficient and handle forces.

The final technique I like to teach to my athletes in regards to action-reaction is the influence of the arm action. It is more commonly seen with sprinting or accelerating in a straight line, but is equally as important when moving laterally. When the arms are used properly in linear acceleration there is a coordinated action between the knee drive and arm action. The more active the arms are the greater the knee drive can be. Obviously, poor flexibility, crossing the arms in front of the body, and other biomechanical faults will hinder speed. If the arms move in too short of a distance in the forward and backward swing this will limit how high the knees will drive. This has a definite influence on stride length and speed. More importantly, the lack of a high knee drive, due to a lack of arm drive, will directly influence the action of the push off leg into the ground and therefore the reaction out of the ground. You see, it is the opposite action of the drive knee that directly influences the power of the push off leg into the ground. And it all starts with a well coordinated arm action.

I don’t know how fast Sir Isaac Newton was, but he definitely had a huge impact on speed. It is important to teach your athletes to apply the greatest amount of force into the ground as quickly as possible. This will surely lead to faster and quicker athletes.

Listed below are two simple drills to teach the law of action-reaction and maybe help your athletes get a better grade on their next science exam.

1. 555 shuffle drills- Set up two cones that are 5 yards apart. Have the athletes shuffle from the start to the far cone, back to the start and finish at the far cone. What you are looking for is acceleration with the power leg, the hips staying level, and a quick stop and change of direction with little hesitation. Watch where the plant foot is positioned. It will tell you a lot about how to correct quickness.

2. Forward and backward sprint- Set up two cones that are 8 yards apart. Have the athletes start at the first cone and accelerate as quickly as possible to the far cone. Upon reaching the far cone the athlete should slow stop under control and back pedal under control back to the start. When reaching the starting cone the athlete will immediately stop and change directions and accelerate to the far cone. Repeat for ten seconds. You are watching the transition from back pedal to forward more closely on this drill. The angle at which the back foot is applied should be great enough to stop and start with no hesitation or slipping. The shoulder must fall forward in line with the legs and hips to create a straight line. If the athlete positions his plant leg poorly or positions his shoulders poorly it will be recognized immediately due to a sluggish take off.

Train Smart,
Lee Taft

cues Effortless Speed, Agility, and Quickness

RAA Effortless Speed, Agility, and Quickness


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Deceleration Training to Avoid Injuries and Improve Performance – Part 2

By Lee Taft

In part one of Deceleration Training I wrote about the importance being able to decelerate as a tactic to expose opponents “biting on a fake or move”. Deceleration Part 2 , I will explained how to train for deceleration of multi-directional speed.

There is definitely a need to teach proper deceleration technique to avoid injuries and improve performance. Unfortunately, there is a lack of understanding on how deceleration angles need to be applied to be both safe and to improve performance.

I have personally seen techniques taught that completely miss the point on angular deceleration for multi-directional speed. There are fundamental concepts and laws of movement that need to be applied for proper execution during a deceleration move. This cannot be completely understood without having an understanding of what form of deceleration is needed. Keep in mind, not all deceleration is stopping! Most of the time deceleration is cutting or changing directions while maintaining some level of speed. You must understand decelerating to stop is different then decelerating to cut or change directions.

The important question is what differences are seen? There are several things. The first being the position of the shoulders over the hips a split second after the initial foot contact of the cutting or stopping foot. During stopping, the shoulders will settle in vertically over the hips to maintain balance. If the athlete is cutting, the shoulders stay to the inside of the hips on an angle in line with the plant leg and allow the athlete to go in the desired direction. This allows the athlete to cut quickly without having lag time or swaying.

cues Deceleration Training to Avoid Injuries and Improve Performance   Part 2

The next important physical aspect used to aid in deceleration is the lowering of the hips or maintenance of hip height. If the athlete is going to stop, the hips must lower to create a better balance situation and to control momentum. If the athlete is going to make an oblique cut and needs to escape, the hips do not actively lower. The hips may lower due to the angle of the cutting leg being outside of the vertical axis of the body which automatically lowers the hips. By not lowering the hips too much the cut can be quick and allow the athlete to maintain speed. The last reason for lowering the hips would be if the cut is acute. In this case, the athlete will need to control speed by lowering the center of mass and slowing the body to allow the cut to be made without moving off the intended path.

The last physical aspect of decelerating is the synergistic movement of the hips and feet to make deceleration safe and effective. Below are a few deceleration exercises I teach and my athletes practice on a daily basis when decelerating from linear running.

First, set up a cone approximately 10 yards from the athlete. Begin with the athlete running at half speed to the cone. As the athlete becomes familiar with the movement, then advance to full speed. The deceleration technique used is as follows:

-The athlete will turn the hip and the foot to the right or left to avoid any torque on the knee, ankle, and hip. The planting action looks like a stopping action of a lateral shuffle. As soon as the plant has occurred, the athlete will back pedal out of it back to the start. The next time have the athlete turn the hip and foot to the opposite side. It is important to develop symmetry in planting.

The second drill resembles the first except it is now random. As the athlete approaches the 10-yard cone, the coach will point to the right or left. The athlete must react and quickly turn the hip.

*It is important to remember, an athlete will decelerate and stop in order to go backward if the ball or opponent is passing by or going over head. If the athlete was to plant the foot straight ahead with the hips and legs facing straight ahead, then the recovery back is going to be too slow and possibly dangerous if the athlete accidentally rotates the foot inward while the hips and legs are still straight.

In the last drill, have the athlete decelerate using the same technique above but now turn and run in the opposite direction. This resembles many sport situations, such as a tennis player chasing down a lob, a baseball outfielder redirecting for a pop fly or a soccer player recovering from a long kick over the head.

The final progression is forward and backward deceleration. There are many more advanced techniques and progressions I use with athletes, but I will keep it simple. This drill is performed like the first drill, however, the athlete will backpedal to the start using good backpedal techniques (nose over toes). At the starting position the athlete will decelerate on the backpedal by planting the right or left foot behind the body as the shoulders move forward to allow for an acceleration back to the end 10-yard cone. Let’s review, run forward and decelerate, then backpedal to the start and decelerates and finish back at the 10 yard cone. This is a great drill to see reversibility efforts by your athletes. Watch for high shoulders and poor planting technique. These two things will surely slow down your athletes’ movement.

Keep in mind the deceleration technique and skills mentioned above is a small percentage of the deceleration techniques that should be taught. I specifically wrote about decelerating from a linear run and back pedaling or running out of the deceleration. There are many other stances and positions an athlete must stop from. Athletes play defense in many positions directly related to the situation at hand. The quicker they can decelerate and recover or accelerate, the better athlete they will be.

Feel free to pass my articles on to your local coaches and athletes. Proper technique needs be taught to all our athletes.

~Lee Taft, Info@SportsSpeedEtc.com

cues Deceleration Training to Avoid Injuries and Improve Performance   Part 2

RAA Deceleration Training to Avoid Injuries and Improve Performance   Part 2

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Deceleration Training to Avoid Injuries and Improve Performance – Part 1

By Lee Taft

There is no doubt one of the most fascinating aspects of a sport is speed. When you see it, you know it. It can break open games or save games. Speed can change how a team runs its offense or designs its defense. It may surprise you what really separates the fast athletes from the rest is how quickly they decelerate. This certainly isn’t the case for track athletes. It is the case of all court and field sport athletes where being elusive is key.

What exactly am I speaking of when I say deceleration? Do I mean stopping, changing directions or slowing down? Yes! That is exactly what I mean. Most fans watching competition may not even notice the deceleration that takes place. They just see the athletes pulling away with great quickness or getting caught from behind by even greater quickness!

cues Deceleration Training to Avoid Injuries and Improve Performance   Part 1

Deceleration is the act of no longer accelerating or maintaining speed. It comes in many shapes. When we see a basketball player perform a change of direction of a dribble, it is obvious this athlete had to decelerate for the change of direction to occur.

What determines the amount of deceleration? Remember, deceleration is a complete stop or a slight hesitation. The first is the speed at which the athlete has coming into the change of direction. Obviously, the faster the athlete is moving the more control is needed to decelerate the body. Secondly, the angle at which the change of direction is going to be made. If the basketball player is going to change direction at an angle of 10-15 degrees, then the deceleration doesn’t need to be as great to control the body and make the cut or change as efficiently as if the angle was 90 degrees.

The third factor which determines how much deceleration is needed, is the implement or equipment control (ball, stick…). Take a basketball player for example. Let’s say the ball handling abilities of the player are limited. This player will need to decelerate much more than a player who can change direction with the ball easily without any loss of control. If we look at a sport like lacrosse where many times the stick is in both hands and the ability to change directions with great body control will change because of the added benefit of the arms to help control the balance of the body. The final factor determines how much deceleration is needed strategically or tactically.

Great offense players know getting the defender off balance is important in beating them. If the deceleration move is so subtle the defender never has a chance to react to it, then it probably will not be effective. However, if the deceleration is aggressive the defender will most likely decelerate as well. Now you’ve got ‘em! As you can see, there is more to deceleration training than just stopping and starting.

Continue on with Deceleration Part 2 to learn critical aspects of deceleration grossly misunderstood by many trainers. As a matter of fact, some of the techniques being taught by other trainers are dangerous! Stay tuned…

cues Deceleration Training to Avoid Injuries and Improve Performance   Part 1

About the Author

Lee Taft is nationally recognized as a top athletic movement specialist. He has his M.S. in Sports Science from the United States Sports Academy and is certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), a Sports Performance Coach certified by USA Weightlifting (SPC) and he is also a certified Level 1 Track and Field Coach by the USA Track & Field (USATF level I). Lee serves as Executive Vice President for the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA), the premier international authority with respect to athletic development and young athlete-based conditioning and also speaks on the Perform Better tour. To learn more about Lee or to contact him go to either of his websites:
www.SportsSpeedEtc.com
www.LeeTaftSpeedAcademy.com

RAA Deceleration Training to Avoid Injuries and Improve Performance   Part 1

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