Deceleration Training to Avoid Injuries and Improve Performance
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.
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, when deceleration training, 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, http://www.leetaft.com
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