Site Loader


[♪] Thank you Doug for that long and
very kind introduction, and thank you everybody for coming. I realize, that
in these events, you have many talks to choose from, so I’m very humbled that you
decided to come into this one. What I want to do is look at speed and
agility performance, but look at it very much from the game context. I want the
game context to actually provide the frame of reference against which we can
plan what movements we need to do, assess how effective those movements are,
plan the progressions, because, ultimately, we want — what we want to do is
to make people better on the field. And, this is developed over time from me
doing a lot of various agility drills and, kind of wondering, well, am I making a
difference? Is there a better way of doing it? Why I think this is important is that
most of us would probably agree that speed and agility will play a major role
in the vast majority of team and court sports. Invariably, the question I’m asked
when athletes come in is – is can you make me faster? But when I look at it, it’s
what they mean by that? And quite often, what they mean by that
and what we perceive to mean by that, they’re actually quite different. Because make me
faster to us means enhance 10-meter dash, enhance 40-yard dash. Make me more
agile means enhance performance on an agility test. For them, it actually
means help me play the game better. Help me score more goals. Help me make more
breaks. Help me make more tackles, and so on. And, sometimes I feel there’s a
dichotomy within those. What we see and what they see a quite different. Now why is this view, why is this
perspectival view important? Well, to me, the way in which we view
something will affect the way in which we train it. So if I believe agility is
something, that is the way I’ll train it. If I believe -if Loren believes it to
be something else, he’ll train in it in a slightly different way. So if
our definitions and our ways of seeing something aren’t on the same level as the
athletes, perhaps we’re missing something. So a lot of what I’m going to talk about
today is very much can we supplement our program? I am not here — I had the
pleasure speaking to Lauren over breakfast a day or so ago — and both of
us agreed, basic acceleration work is still and will always be a major part of
our program. But how do we supplement that? How do we make the transfer? So let’s take a look at the agility.
Let’s go into a classic definition of agility – the ability to explosively break
and change direction. Okay, it’s in all the textbooks. One of the
beauties of this is easy to measure. So we can tell if we’re getting better at
doing that type of movement pattern, but is there more to the way in which we
move on the sports field than just that? To me, that’s kind of misses a lot of the
context of agility. 2006, Jeremy Chef and Warren Young took that a whole step
further because they looked at it as a rapid whole body movement in reaction to
a stimulus. So that kind of brought in the concept of reactive agility. Has it
moved agility forward? I believe it has, yes. But, there is
still, to me, a little bit of a danger, because we just think that if we’ve
added a reactive element that it must be better. But what if that reactive element
is resulted in the movement pattern that isn’t reflected in sport? What if it’s asking us to reflect on
stimuli that bid no resemblance to what the sport is going to play? Have we
then enhanced our practice or are we just starting to waste time? So I came up with
this ridiculously long definition of what I call game speed, and trust me, this
is not to bring more definitions into the field. Lord knows we’ve got enough definitions.
But it’s to help us frame what I think we
need to be doing with our speed and agility training. So I see it as a
context-specific movement. So that immediately takes me that I have to look
at the context before I can say whether somebody is -is effective or not. Where
the aim is to maximize sports performance. So the aim now is not a
measure of agility or measure of speed it’s actually aimed at enhancing the
sports performance of that athlete wherever the sport is, and it’s the
application of sports-specific movement of optimal velocity. Now that seems strange.
In a speed and agility talk that I’m talking about optimal velocity
rather than maximum velocity, but think of all the movements that we do in sport.
Many of them are at a position we’re waiting to react to a stimulus. Now if we
are out of control, at that point, we can’t react effectively. We could lose
a yard in first step. Now how, you know, we’ve all done speed training, it
takes an awful lot to get somebody a yard faster, but if I’m losing that because I
haven’t got control then that’s an easy win for me. I can pick
something up very, very quickly and enhance performance without the needs
necessarily of making somebody that much faster. The optimal velocity precision
efficiency control in anticipation of and in reaction to stimulus. So this now
frames the way in which I view speed and agility training. I look at any
movement, so when I see an agility drill, and I think will that be useful for my athletes? I go
to the sport. I look at the sport. I look at the way they move. And then, I can
evaluate it against that. Rather than saying, yup, you know, it’s got change of
direction, must be agility. It must be useful for me. Now science, and you know, I work in the university, so I’m infinitely involved with this, it’s made
an immeasurable difference in strength and conditioning. But, this is what we
tend to say, if it can’t be measured, it doesn’t exist. So our quest always in
science is to measure something, so we can see tangible results with our
training. The challenge, if I go into my game speed definition is that many of
those things control precision. It’s very difficult to measure with the current
technology that we have. So what we’ve always done is that we’ve gone — if we
think of, is somebody agile? It’s timed. What does that instruct our athlete to do?
Move quickly irrelevant to the control that you have as you do it. So how many of us have seen tests like
the t-test — and I’m going to use this afternoon — where people fall over at the
end of it? Where people look, okay, they may be moving quick, but they’re so out of
control that if you ask them to perform a sport skill, they simply wouldn’t be
able to do it. So in my quest of measurements, am I losing the view of what the athlete
wants, in terms of, sports performance? So, to me, this is the typical approach that
we do. Our definition of what we view agility as leads us to the measures of
what is good, of what is bad, and that leads us to the drills. So think of how
many drills that you may have done over the years where the only advice you can
give is to move faster. You’re going through the ladders, do it faster. You’re
going over the hurdles, do it faster. Is that necessarily the case, or are we
missing something? Now, I’m going to put a couple of
examples of soccer up. I’m going to put a couple examples of Lionel Messi up. An absolute
genius on the football field. Now, because of our scientific view, because of our
definitional view of agility, I think that we take a physical approach. So when
we try to explain somebody’s performance, we’ll take the physical. He’s
good cause he’s strong. He’s good cause he’s fast. He’s good cause he’s good on these agility
tests. But is that always the case? how many of us have come up against an
athlete, who’s good on paper, but doesn’t look that quick? But, man, he can play the game.
Or, he’s not that strong, but gee, he can run, he can jump, he can do everything that
is needed. And, when we look at the correlational studies between strength
and speed, there’re never as high as we’d expect them to be. When we go into
strength and agility, there are even lower. When we go into strength and reactive
agility, they’re kind of thinking, is it helping at all? Now, it’s easy for us to explain away
contradictions. Oh, yeah, but yeah. It’s a fault in
the study. Or is there actually something happening? Because,
quite often, intuition and an innovation will come when we look at these
contradictions. When we say, hang on there, there’s a pattern starting to emerge
here. To me, quite clearly, something else is going on. So Messi, probably the best football player on the
planet. Is he the strongest? I doubt it. On a 10-yard dash, 40-yard dash, would he be the
quickest? I doubt it. Would he come up as best on all of the agility drills? I’m
not so sure. But he damn is a good footballer. So, to me, that’s giving me
clues that if this is the only thing I’m doing maybe I’m missing something. Now with my definition, and when will
start getting into the words of control, and so on, it’s difficult to measure. Its not
tangible. But, does that mean I should ignore it? Because, scientifically
we would say, if you can’t measure it, it’s not there. We’ve got to go somewhere
else. And then, I read this quote, which is attributed to Einstein, I don’t know if it
actually his, “Not everything that counts, can be counted, not everything that can
be counted, counts.” So just because we currently can’t measure it, doesn’t mean
that we shouldn’t focus on it in our coaching. Similarly, just because we’re taking time
it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the be-all and end-all of agility
performance. So, to me, we have to be happy with a certain level of uncertainty. As
long as we’re seeing tangible changes on the field of play, I think we’re doing
our job. So quite often athletes have come to me and they’ve said, you know, this
stuff is working, because, and they’ve never given me a test score as evidence. I’m starting to get three in the box. Nobody’s getting past me anymore. That, to
me, has to be evidence. Now it’s very difficult to scientifically publish that,
and so on, but, if that consistently happens, then maybe I’m doing something
right. So this leads us to a point, do we need
to rethink the way in which we develop agility? Do we need to add things in that
help us get this specific context? So it goes back to the same question, what does
he want from us? And it’s simple, he wants to be a better player. We’ve then
got to give him the tools to be able to enhance that playing performance. But, what’s going to help him play the
game more effectively? Now you can think of this, whatever sport
you play, what makes a great basketball player great? What makes a great football
player great? Those are the key things that we need to
focus on, and our speed and agility are towards that objective. Now, invariably,
if you want great sport, and when it came out this morning, Djokovic and Gasquet
just started, and then there’s the big Federer / Andy Murray game this afternoon,
what fantastic movers on the court. So their movement contributes to their
ability to play those games. But, it’s not just the speed. When they reach those
endpoints, they have such control that they can play shots that we can only
dream of. They can reach balls, that again, we can
only dream of. So our objectives must be game-related.
Now if that’s the case, that means we have to rethink the way in which we’re
looking at and developing agility. So we have to think not at how necessarily
well we have to make people in tests, and, you know, I’m not contradicting the
fact that you’ve got to, especially with the combine system that you guys have,
you’ve got to help people do the test. But ultimately, we’ve also got to help
maximize the transfer to the sports performance. So the logic is, where do we
start? We have to start with the end in mind. We
have to start at the sport. So let’s have a look at basketball, and I’m no expert
on basketball. But, defensive role or offensive role? That’s a defensive role. The way I look at it then is what could
happen next? Could potentially lay-up shot. Could potentially drive. So in a defensive position you have to be able
to respond to all of those potential movements. That’s what gives me my drills.
So when I put somebody in athletic position, I think, right, basketball what
could happen next? They’ve got to be able to jump. They’ve got to be able to move
laterally. They’ve got to be able to drop, and so on. You can start to see how that
starts my drill development sequence, by looking immediately at the sport. Now you
can start to see who this would be different. If Joe drove at me that way
and I took a lateral step, would it be a narrow step or relatively wide step? It’ll be a
relatively wide step. Would it be a high step or a low step? It’ll be a low step. Now let’s
have a look at some of the drills that we would say as a lateral agility drills.
Oh, sorry wrong one. How do I take that? That one. Suddenly, that movement pattern doesn’t
look like anything like that movement pattern that the athlete is going to do.
Another drill. Suddenly, that movement pattern doesn’t look anything like what
I’m going to get at this point. So this is why I’m starting to question how some
of our drills, because we’re not game focused, maybe taking us away. So if I
spend the next month, getting an athlete good at that and good at that and good at
that, am I actually helping ’em do that? That’s
an easy, big question. So am I helping? Maybe not. I’m I hindering?
So are we missing the big picture, because we’re starting with definitions.
Do we now need to flip and look at other things? So effective movement, and you
will hear TV commentators use these all the time,
words such as controlled, task-oriented, precise, efficient, of optimal velocity,
frequent adjustments. Do you think that’s the case? I believe so. Can we measure any
of those? Probably not. A lot of the research says that great athletes are
those that make frequent adjustments, so subtle that you often can’t pick him up,
but that’s why they’re constantly in a good position to play the game, but
they’re very, very difficult to see. So what we need to be able to think, it’s
can we come up with drills that develop those capacities? One of the things I’d
heard last week in tennis was, they’ve stopped moving their feet,
they’re not getting into a good position to play the shot. And that’s the elite
level player. Because when do our movement patterns breakdown? Under
pressure and under fatigue. So we’ve got to make them so good that they with-
stand. Now, if we’re not practicing these, then they’re not going to be able
to stand the pressure. So let’s have a look at what goes on in the game. And, to me,
the key is this, athletes solve problems. Essentially, every potential situation is
unique. So why would it look similar? He’s never faced that position where the
ball is in the same position, the opposition are in the same position, and
so on. So at all times there are multiple processes going on.
This perception, perception of positions ball, opposition, teammates, and so on,
that is constantly being processed. So these aren’t one way arrows. These are
arrows that are constantly changing in terms of, all right, where’s the opposition? Okay, I can see they’re closing in. Now I need to do something different. Its motor action selection. Sometimes our
drills already do that for the athlete. We tell them, we’re going to run there, we’re
gonna turn at that corner, we’re gonna run off. How doing they know when to select the
best movement? Which ones are going to help them transfer best? And then it’s
the motive action application. So how much are we currently missing? I would
guess that we do a lot of this, but maybe not so much. And if you can see behind,
your attention is probably naturally drawn to the offensive athlete.
They’re not these arrows in the way, but have a look at how these defensive
players are completely out of good position. Hence, the attempted grab to
try to stop the guy from going through. So what he has managed to do is get
these guys out of good position. What we’ve got to make sure it is that that
doesn’t happen as much as possible. So to me, it’s time to change the paradigm. Instead of starting with the definitions and moving forward, I think we’ve got to
start with a game, break down the key tasks that determine success in the game,
and then build the exercises progressively around these tasks. So it
almost flips everything. So instead of starting with our definitions, and Scott
was doing a similar thing in his talk earlier, we’ve got to understand the
game. We’ve got to understand what the athlete needs to achieve before we can
randomly go in and do all these drills, because it best we can have little
effect. At worst we may be hindering their athletic development. So we
got to start with a sport. What are the tasks? Now if I’m playing
basketball, soccer, football, separation. If I can get separation, offensively, I’m a pretty good athlete. So if
somebody’s standing in front of me I want to be able to get separation as
effectively as I possibly can. What’s the converse of that defensively?
They want to stop that. They want to be able to close those gaps. So the
indicators of success would then be how much separation can I actually get? What
are the constraints? Well, if I’m working with footballers it’s
brutal. It’s head on tactic. So when I’m looking at defensive situations I’ve
got to make sure that the athlete is in the position where they can make
those tackles, if it’s soccer. If it’s basketball, it’s certainly different. They
can get away with different footwork patterns. And then, that leads me to the
movements that I need to be able to do it and I’ve got my initiation movement. I want
to be able to start a movement to the front, to the side, to the rear. I want to be able to change direction
back, forward, side, side. I want to be able to accelerate. I want to be able to get to
max speed, but also, I want to be able to have my transition movements. My athletic
position. My jogged athletic position. My moving laterally, moving to the rear,
moving diagonally, and so on. What I want to do then for those of you are
able to make the practical, we’re going to try to put this theoretical
element into a sample practical session. So that’s my reverse engineering process.
I’m starting with the sport and I’m working backwards. So when I look at the
sport, there’s a danger. Most of us are ball watches. We watch
what goes on on the ball. Think of it, every time we watch sport, we
follow the ball. A lot of great movement and key movement
happens off the ball. So that when we watch a sport and we try to break down
movement patterns, we can’t just watch what happens on the ball. So when my team is in possession, I’ve got
it, but there are people moving everywhere. So quite often, when you see
somebody in space, it’s not because what they’ve done that second, it’s what they
did two seconds previously when they were off the ball. They’ve seen what’s coming on. They’ve made
their move. They’re into space. I also need to look at what happens out of
possession. So if there’s space somebody’s missed their task somewhere. And quite often
those things come down to movement deficiencies or movement mistakes, not
just technical mistakes. And this is where you as movement experts have a
huge input into helping teams because team sports and team cultures will always
see a technical issue in relation to what they know, which tends to be the
techniques of the game. But I watch it at premier level back home, there are
movement mistakes every week which leads to critical factors in the game. And it’s
our job, we’ve got a capacity to really help that as we go through.
Now this is opened up something that I’m not really going to talk about today
which is, which is where I’m going to at the moment, which is offensive and
defensive agility. Defensive is very reactive. Always making sure that we’re
in a good position. Offensive is all about pattern interruption. So as I run at somebody, I want to
put doubt in their mind. I want them to get out of a natural pattern of movement, and
ideally, get them into a bad position. That’s going to take skills that we
probably never work on. So if you think about our speed work, do
we include slight curves within our run? Because if I run at Doug, and I just curve
my run a little bit, suddenly I have interrupted his pattern. He doesn’t know what’s
going on. From there I can then make my cut. As I do that cut, how can I
manipulate my body initially to send Doug in the opposite way to which I want?
So all these offensive skills are going to open up huge new avenues for us to
help athletes within their, within their sport. So we got to practice them. So, of
all these things, how hands-on heart can we say that we practice them
consistently, that we have a strategy and the system in place where we can address
all of these components? Or do we just pick and choose? Danger with pick and choosing
is you know which athletes, which movement patterns that are going to suffer.
They’re going to be the ones we don’t train. So whilst there is a huge amount of
literature developing on motor skill learning, and it’s going to change
drastically over the next 10 years, I think, and really impact
strength and conditioning. One that comes consistently through is that the key to
skill learning is the amount of quality practice. And if we can construct quality
practice there and do it consistently, we are going to give our athletes a big, big
advantage. So I want to get in now into a little bit of my old theory on what
makes quality practice. So if we have a look at the current literature, and as I
said, this is emerging. The work on motor control is one of the great
unknowns. So we can probably do at the moment is have a closure at, and say at,
this point it appears that these elements give us an advantage when
it looks at motor learning. Over the next ten years, over the next five years, this may
change drastically as more and more research — the challenge is a lot of the
research is done in the theoretical, on very unrealistic tasks like balancing on
swing boards, and so on. It hasn’t come into the mainstream of
sport yet, but it doesn’t mean, as I said, we’ve got to deal with that uncertainty.
It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t should ignore it at this point. So what makes good practice? Number one
it needs to be strategic. I need to have my list of
movements and have my list of tasks, have my lists of capabilities and address them on
a consistent basis, through a week through a month, through a year, through a
whole development program. And Scott was alluding to how he does that in
terms of taking athletes from the beginning stage up, up until mastery. It
needs to be progressive challenge. What it seems is that the more cognitive
involvement that we get, the better the learning. Despite the fact that, initially,
performance may be down. It needs to be variable. It needs to be on the edge of
capacity. Mistakes need to be expected in our training environment. It is not a
perfect environment. I want the athletes to make the mistakes there not in the
game. I want them exposed to the kind of
challenges that they are going to get in the game in training. I never want, “Oh, I’ve
never seen anything like that before, gee whiz.” And you suddenly lost by 20
points because they’ve not been accustomed to those things. As I said earlier
there needs to be an element of cognitive processing to it all. There needs to be random
allocation. So we’re not just doing the same thing all the time. If you think of
a lot of the agility drills that we do, how often they are just going through
them? Very little cognitive, very little
challenge, very little progression. Can we make it better? It needs ideally an external focus. It
seems that if you focus your intention in words it actually inhibits your
ability to move. So if I’m giving a lot of focus it, okay, flex your hips. That, kind of, doesn’t help the
athlete. Where as if I can give an external focus, back side against the wall. They
find it easier to do. And a thing that’s often thrown at me is, yeah, okay, this
stuff is great, but they do that by play in the game. Yes, they do, but they don’t do it
repeatedly. So if I want to develop my cutting
capabilities, I can’t let the game do that, because we
may only do that once in three weeks. Whereas, if I can bring those type of
element into my training, I can do them repeatedly over time and get that
learning that we need to enhance. So let’s take our typical drill based
approach. With our physical hat on, it’s okay. With our skill-based hat on,
how many of those factors that I was alluding to are present in that? And we’re
talking about very few. Now when we take task-based exercises, where we give
people a task that somehow relates to the movement and some are related to the
game, can you see how suddenly it opens up an awful lot of these. So it makes sense,
on a context-specific basis, but I think it also makes sense on motor learning
basis. Now is that saying that we should, we should completely get rid
of all of these closed drills? No, I’m not saying that. What I am saying is, can we
supplement those strategically to enhance the transfer and potentially to
enhance the learning of the athletes? Because what I want is an athlete that
can go onto the field and solve the problems. They come up against Loren Landow, he’s lightning-quick, but god, he can’t change direction. It’s only an assumption.
Suddenly I’ve done right. I’ve got, then got the movement tools cause I faced that
kind of athlete before. I know how to defend them. I give them a little bit
more space, show him the outside, close him down. Jay Dawes on the other hand is not
that quick, but gee, he can change direction. It’s a different strategy, but I need to learn
those strategies in training, and I think these ways actually help us get it. So what I’m proposing is what I call a
task based approach. So this drill here, which we will do this afternoon,
simple knee and hip tag game. What’s it trying to get? Its trying to
get the athlete to constantly be in an athletic position, with their eyes up, and
adjusting the hip position in relation to the athlete. So this is part of our
progression from simple jockeying through to game tasks. Is it perfect? No
it’s not. But, do they have to concentrate? Is there cognitive involvement? Yes. Is it
progressive? Yes. Is it varied? Yes. Is it random? Are they externally focused? You
see how a lot of those learning things are coming in and being, kind of,
ticking boxes quite nicely. So, to me, what the task based approaches is the use of
movement based challenges to develop context specific movement capacity. It’s
just a different way of looking at the challenge of developing agility. So what I do, what are the skills? It could be a change of direction skill.
It could be a deceleration skill. It could be acceleration drill. I have a
look what then the athlete actually needs
to be able to do, to do it well. What are the key perceptual triggers that exist?
What are the task constraints? Are we putting this in a basketball context, a
football context, a tennis context, and then we designed the drill around that. So
quite often this same drill will look subtly different depending upon the
sport context that I’m working with. And, interestingly, despite the fact that I’m
talking about sports specificity, when we actually reverse things, we find a
remarkable similarity in fundamental capacities. What I call sports generic
movements. So that ability to change direction that I keep going on about, is
going to be useful to a football player? Yes. A soccer player? Yes. A basketball
player? Yes. A netball player? Pretty much any team sport, it’s going to be in there.
So I can even do multiple sports type sessions, where we work on these kinds of
tasks, and then we can apply them at a later date. So the key to it is progressing
challenges. This is my drill. How do I make it more challenging? So
let’s take changing direction. I use a concept that I call degrees of freedom.
The aim initially will be to establish the basic pattern. We’ll show them how
it’s done. Slow pace. We’ll build the pace up. But
then we need more. So at this point then when they’re
competent there we can start to add what I’ll call a temporal or spatial variance.
So if you look at the athlete coming in at this point, he’s running in, he’s
waiting for me the signal, I give him a little signal, and away he goes in that
direction. I can change that signal up. It could be that if I move that way, he’s
got to go the opposite way. It’s a little bit more sports specific. Into a
sports generic task, my attempt to get past Joe because if I don’t, I could be
in dire trouble. And then, we can add the sport specificity to it with where the
players, the directions they’re coming in, the distances in between, and so on. So
we’re taking what looks like a very simple skill, but by using these degrees
of freedom it helps us to progress it into what looks very sports-specific. Now
one of the byproducts of all of this is what I’ll call buy-in. Now when you
work with rugby players, when you work the footballers, they take strength and
conditioning for granted. You don’t have to sell it. If, back home,
when we work with soccer players we have to sell strength and conditioning
massively. “Well, what’s all this weight lifting and stuff do going do for me?
How’s it going to help?” And, so on. And sometimes it’s a hard sell because those
capacities are cornerstones, but they don’t transfer directly all the time.
This stuff, when they start to see this, they’re, “I can see that. That’s going to
help me.” The other thing that I’ve
experienced with it it helps coaches as well. Because, if we’ve been practicing
this and then suddenly a player goes in the game makes a great cut, you say, hey,
we practice that. Maybe there’s something in that, that weird and
wonderful stuff that you do. And all of those bit-by-bit help justify the work
that you do as a strength and conditioning coach. But, and this is a massive but, these
drills alone won’t do the trick because they rely on your coaching capability. You’ve got to know what these techniques
should look like. You’ve got to be able to observe and evaluate immediately. See
as many of those –so why is that not working? Look at your foot position. Look at your knee position. And then, give the athletes the abilities to help them solve the
problems. And one of the things I’ve kind of gone to a lot is a lot more
questioning, a lot almost suggestion rather than telling immediately that’s -that’s what you need to do. So
that they can start to figure that out, because when they are on the field you
are not on there with them. They’re on an island. So you need to be able to help
them have those skills to be able to solve those problems. And that, to me, is
what we can do. So it’s not just doing random agility drills, reactive agility
drills, it’s having a purpose but coaching them. Knowing what they should look like
and being able to develop that athlete’s performance towards mastery. Now whether
we ever get mastery, we spoke of this Loren, is -is doubtful. Even the great,
greatest athletes movement patterns will break down at some point. What we’ve got
to do is try to get that probability of break down as low as we possibly can. So,
in summary, what I think this does, thinking through game speed brings a
contextual focus. It forces us to look at the way the movement works in the game. Utilizing tasks seems to maximize
learning. At the moment it ticks the box of the current theory on motor control
and learning, but it must be combined with effective coaching. It’s not a cure-all. It is a tool. A tool that we supplement
our other things with to hopefully help -help our athletes transfer into sports performance. Thank you very much.

Reynold King

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *