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The Shaping of Speed Through Technique

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Shaping of Speed Through Technique

Many articles, books and information products discuss the development of speed from its physiological perspective of biomotor enhancement.

  • How to get athletes stronger so as to create more force production and absorption.
  • How many sets and reps are necessary in a given training program in order to elicit the greatest possible hypertrophic response.
  • How long should the rest times be between sprints or cone drills so as to ensure maximum recoverability.

These are all valid considerations and the purpose of this article is not to diminish their value.

The pursuit of lasting speed and movement enhancement with your athletes however, should not be reduced to learning and applying just the overviews of quality programming. There is a much larger picture to consider – and it requires a more long-term approach and keen eye from a coaching perspective.

I am referring to the process of assessing and shaping, or re-shaping, the means in which your athlete moves.

While the biomotor aspects of enhancing speed are incredibly valid and must be incorporated into a qualityrich training program, they also can be quite short-term in nature. To say that an athlete increases their strength, force production/absorption and therefore speed output following a certain duration of applied training is a nobrainer.

The body will respond physiologically to meet the demands of a given stimulus. But once that stimulus ceases in its application (i.e. post training program), there is a natural and predictable de-training effect that must be respected as reality.

Shaping the quality of movement economy for your athlete however, can be a much more lasting change and therefore lead to a more long-term and consistent adhered response.

It consists of re-programming the CNS by creating positive habitual patterns of movement execution. In the young athlete, the CNS is plastic by nature – so if these habitual patterns are programmed early enough in the developmental training of a young athlete, they are ensured to become a lasting response.

The plasticity referred to above is a law of human development that states the young CNS to be an adaptable or shapeable commodity. If technique is taught and layered in via a progressive approach, the young athletes capacity to both learn and retain a certain skill or group of skills is extremely high from a lifetime consideration.

As the human body ascends chronologically, its capacity to learn, retain and reproduce given skills or abilities is greatly diminished – not impossible, but not nearly as lofty as in the pre-adolescent years.

That is why fundamental technique application and nonspecificity must be the cornerstones of training young athletes.

In order to begin shaping the movement capacity of an athlete or group of athletes, the most rudimentary variables of coaching must first be discussed. This may seem like elementary advice, but in the absence of defining the global behavior standards of your athletes, any efforts pertaining to enhancing speed and movement ability will be less than optimized.

A coach or trainer must possess a firm grasp of applied pedagogical science and have the ability to convert that knowledge into its practical art form.

Gone are the days of the ‘one size fits all’ approach to working with athletes. You cannot assume nor expect a given group of athletes, with their varying personalities and temperaments, to relate and respond to a singular style of coaching.

The aristocratic and authoritarian coaching style, long considered the most effective means of handling a group of athletes, is in actuality, a surefire way to negate the potential benefits of a lesson or training session.

From an ease of coaching perspective, it would be a wonderful scenario for us to only to work with those athletes whom were supremely motivated and exceptionally gifted, but in reality, this is seldom the case.

In any given group setting you have to accept the notion that your athletes will be divided in terms of both ability and motivation, and represent an eclectic cross-section of the following potential personalities:

– High Motivation/High Skill

– High Motivation/Low Skill

– Low Motivation/ High Skill

– Low Motivation/Low Skill

Each one of the sub-classifications above represents an athlete in need of a particular coaching style in order to
gain and retain your speed and movement shaping lessons optimally. Your first order of business then, is to adopt a dynamic coaching style which has wide spread appeal and attractiveness to any athlete – regardless of ability or disposition.

In doing so, your common denominator for coaching a diverse group of athletes must stem from use of the Pygmalion effect (often called the "teacher-expectancy effect").

The Pygmalion effect infers that athletes will respond positively to the expectations placed upon them. This is a place in which may coaches and trainers fail to glean a positive response or change in there athletes when applying exercise stimulus alone as the sole variable used to elicit change or improvement.

You must quantify to your athletes what you expect their roles to be in the process of shaping there speed and movement skills. More over, your must consistently assert the specific skills you require them to develop at both the onset and conclusion of a given training session.

Herein lies the long-term approach to shaping movement and speed skill.

Each and every training session must have a plan for both execution, but be part of a long-range and dynamically conceived vision as to where you want your athletes to be at a certain point in time.

It is also critical that coaches and trainers assess the most viable ways of evoking an expectations-based philosophy with each group, in keeping with the varying personality, skill level and disposition of the individuals within that group.

It is equally important to understand the value of multidimensional instruction. Some athletes learn visually, some via verbal interaction and others still through kinesthetic means. Each of these instruction strategies must be equated into the coaching puzzle for true and lasting habitual change to occur in the quest to have your athletes to move more quickly and with increased motion.

In recap, the global behavior standards that must first be developed are as follows:

  • Understand that athletes have varying skills and motivations, and develop dynamic coaching strategies that will influence all of them.
  • Incorporate an expectation principle into each training session so as to have a measurable and tangible objective for your athletes to aspire.
  • Use verbal, visual and kinesthetic means of instruction to promote complete and full adherence.

In next month’s article, I will explain how to create long-term speed and movement programs that positively influence habitual patterns of movement via layering or chaining in skill.

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