By Lee Taft
I am often asked about my technigues for teaching speed and agility. People want to know why and when I use them. The first thing I tell them is they just occur. The plyo step, the hip turn, the directional step, and all the other multidirectional speed techniques are natural movements for athletes. In other words; what I have done is studied how athletes naturally move through instinct and innateness, and I have created a model of how to move. Even though athletes naturally do something like reposition their feet to accelerate or decelerate quickly, they still may make mistakes with upper body control.
Speed and agility done right is about making sure we marry the natural movements athletes have with effective and efficient body control to maximize speed and quickness.
Still to this day, and I am sure for many years to come, coaches still want to argue with me about the repositioning steps athletes take. They refuse to believe, even though all athletes do it naturally in a reactive situation, that the plyo step, the hip turn, the directional step or others are proper. Yet, when I tell them to simply watch a basketball game, football game, baseball game... they will see the greatest athletes in the world use repositioning steps all the time.
When I see coaches try to change athletes natural movement it does nothing but frustrate the athletes and coaches. Imagine trying to run with 30 pounds strapped to each foot. That is what it feels like when in a reactive situation an athlete isn't allowed to take a repositioning step to get into quicker acceleration angles.
One of the greatest assets an athlete has is his or her ability to react which means a load-to-explode action is needed. When athletes are in a parallel stance (athletic stance) they are waiting to pounce on the play. They are waiting to chase their opponent or the ball. They are dying to load the system so they can explode with power and quickness. You can't tell me that forcing an athlete to take away their natural quick force producing repositioning steps is a good thing.
Over the past 20 plus years of running clinics, many times I have asked a participant to step on stage and show me acceleration out of an athletic stance. Each time I do this the athlete will take a plyo step or hip turn, depending on the direction I ask them to travel. It is simply natural - especially if I drop a ball 13 feet or so in front of them and tell them not to let it bounce two times. On a rare occasion there will be athletes that will time it correctly and roll forward and take off. The problem with this is it isn't how an athlete moves in live sport participation. In live sport the athletes doesn't know which way they will go until the play unfolds. When coaches teach their athletes to lean forward and start rolling it is doing a disservice to the athletes. Let the athletes be active and forceful in repositioning their feet.
As you finish reading this article, start thinking back to all the times your athletes naturally moved their feet during play. It isn't to defy you; it is because the natural ways of reactive speed and quickness always win out.