Agility training has become an integral part of football training at both the high school and college levels. In order for players to play at championship levels they must have power, speed and agility. It isn’t enough to just be strong and not sufficient to be very fast. Players must also have the ability to turn instantly, stay on their feet and out-maneuver the opposing team.
There is a science to the approach of teaching players agility. It isn’t enough to build endurance through long runs or speed through interval training or speed work. These all develops specific muscle groups, but by developing agility the player also hones his neuromuscular system and engages more of his muscles to perform the same motion.
Players who are agile on their feet are able to maintain their balance during direction changes, starting, slowing or stopping. It also helps the player the chance to develop better kinesthetic awareness, and stronger neuromuscular coordination that increase control of the body and prevent injuries.
The cornerstone of agility is explosive start speed, better reaction time, more stable balance, stronger footwork, and more reliable acceleration. For players to achieve these things, coaches must use less than ideal tools, the unreliable body of the player. Utilizing exercises like as traditional, the standing broad jump, tires, repeated short distance runs or explosive starts over a distance of between five to 30 yards.
But today agility training for football players, and other ball related sports such as soccer and basketball, must include other forms of training to improve their skills. High school players are starting from a point where they are bigger and naturally stronger than in past years which means they need more aggressive training to achieve good results.
One way of teaching agility to even larger players are the ladder drills. These drills can take many forms and teach the player to move their feet quickly in and out of small slots while maintaining balance and changing direction. Coaches can encourage explosive speed by directing a 30 yard sprint at the end of each pass over the ladder.
Another new addition endurance and agility training is proprioception training. This is a means of muscle training that physical therapists have been using in rehabilitation for many years. Only recently have coaches discovered the benefits for their players.
Proprioceptors are special biochemical receptors in the muscles, joints, tendons and inner ear which collectively provide us with a strong understanding of the body’s general position, and the positioning of body parts, body parts. Proprioception training puts a strong focus on the development of core muscles in the abdomen and back in order to improve balance.
When it comes to joint stability, balance is necessary. Without the joint being balanced, a player becomes at risk for developing an injury. Proprioception increases balance and by improving stability also decreases the risk of injury. Part of the training forces the body needing work onto uneven surfaces which develops significantly improved overall strength and endurance.
Tools for proprioception training can include cones, plyoboxes, balls that are weighted to the player’s needs, ropes, ladders with flat rungs, and agility mats or dots. Other training items that are more specific to proprioception are trampolines, wobble boards and dyna-discs, all increase the balance ability of the player.
Including agility training for football players will only help to improve their overall performance and decrease their rate of joint injuries. Both of these factors will help to keep the player on the field all season and improve the overall level of play for the entire team.