Many sports require participants to move in multiple directions at varied speeds.
As examples, a hockey player must run, stop, turn and lunge to tackle; a netballer needs to run, pivot and jump to intercept; a rugby player must step to evade defenders and veer at high speeds to score or save a try.
And despite directional change being a big part of these sports, often a large percentage of a training program focuses primarily on forward running. While this training delivers large benefits in preparing for sport performance, there are further inclusions to our training program that can service the multi-directional nature of sport. By doing this we may boost performance and lower the chance of injury during sports training and match-play.
This three-part series highlights a basic progression of concepts you can incorporate into your field-based sessions to assist with change-of-direction speed development, to increase your performance and minimise risk of injury when competing on the court, pitch, or field.
During field sports we often have to stop quickly and reaccelerate in another direction. A starting point in developing this ability is therefore to incorporate deceleration efforts (stopping) into training.
The determining factors of intensity of a deceleration are how fast we are moving and how much distance we have to stop.
Think of a car trying to come to a complete stop. A car moving at 110km/h will require heavy braking to stop within 100m but less to stop within 300m. In contrast, a car moving at 50km/h will be able to smoothly decelerate to stop within 100m. This same principle is true for stopping our bodies during running. The higher the speed and lower the distance to stop, the more ‘heavy braking’ required, which for athletes results in greater forces needing to be absorbed by the body’s muscles and joints to lower our velocity. Exposing ourselves to decelerations in our training and developing our efficiency to absorb these large forces will lower injury risk and increase our ability to quickly stop and reaccelerate during matches.
To incorporate deceleration efforts into training, an example would be to mark out a set distance of 10m with two cones. From the starting cone, accelerate and come to a complete stop at the 10m mark. Pay attention to where in the 10m zone you begin to reduce your step length and prepare to stop. Walk back and repeat this, trying to delay the onset of your deceleration as a progression.
You can progress these deceleration drills by changing the direction and the level of uncertainty.
First, complete the same drill as per previous, however change the direction you are facing at the 10m stop mark. For example, accelerate to the 10m cone and come to a complete stop, this time however facing to the left (next rep to the right). This will be a precursor to incorporating turning into your speed training.
Second, incorporating uncertainty into your training can be beneficial as on the field you don’t always have the benefit of having a cone to tell you when to stop. Stopping in match-play is usually in response to something we see or hear, and usually directs us to stop quickly and suddenly. If you have a partner in your training, incorporate this quality into your training by stopping on the call of ‘stop’ from your partner, attempting to bring yourself to a stop as fast as possible following the call.