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Introduction
LTAD - a critique
Demands of the game
Profile of players
Functional screening
Resistance training
Speed and agility training
Integrated game conditioning
Periodisation
Content
Questions

Speed development - agility, training and testing

Fast processing equals fast response

There are three stages to a reaction; the first is recognition of some stimulus or signal. Then a decision is made and the third stage involves movement initiation. According to Brown & Ferrigno (2005) most decisions (that is stage 2) in sport occur in 200 milliseconds at the most and in less time if possible. They suggest that fast mental processing speed is the defining quality of sporting greatness in terms of field and court sports in particular. They suggest that this element of speed deserves every bit as much time as other physical components of fitness in terms of training, conditioning and preparation of the player.

Figure 7. Players weave between poles. This is a planned agility drill.

Random vs planned agility

To help us understand the importance of perceptual and decision making elements and their relationship with performance it is necessary to seek out studies that have actually used a more random and less predictive pattern of agility in their assessment of agility. While there is a large body of pattern agility literature, there is a much smaller body of literature that focuses on random or reactive agility.

Figure 8. Reactive agility test as used by Gabbeth et al (2008). Note the test administrator or coach stands 5 metres in front of the player and initiates the start of the test and then the direction of movement that the player must follow.

The tester stands opposite and facing the player. Each test begins with the tester initiating movement and thereby beginning the test. The player then reacts to the initial movement of the tester by moving forward and then to the left or right in response to and in the same direction as the left or right movement of the tester. In the Gabbeth et al (2008) study, there were four possible choices to make. The four possible scenarios all involved steps of approximately one-half metre and were presented in random order to the player. The choices included:

  1. Step forward with right foot and change direction to the left
  2. Step forward with left foot and change direction to the right
  3. Step forward with right foot, then left , then change direction to the right
  4. Step forward with left foot, then right, then change direction to the left

The player accelerated forward prior to any change of direction, in reaction to the forward movement of the tester. The player was instructed to recognise the cues as soon as possible (while moving forward), and react by changing direction and sprinting through the timing gates. The players were instructed to emphasise accuracy of decision-making and speed of movement.

Serpell et al (2011) described a 3-week training programme which consisted of players visually reacting to a player’s random movements which are displayed on a large video screen. The training programme resulted in improved reactive agility. The authors concluded that the results from this study suggest that the perceptual and decision-making components of agility are trainable. Further, they recommended that coaches should incorporate open motor skills training in their programmes when training agility.