Speed is a gamechanger. No matter the age or sport, faster athletes can affect the outcome of any game. If you build a solid foundation for your technique at a young age, you will be able to continuously improve your speed and significantly reduce the chance of an injury.
In my own experience, I have had many parents say something along the lines of “My son/daughter WAS the fastest on the team, now he’s falling behind. He needs more speed!”
Remember, we want to have the fastest and most explosive athletes when they are on the Varsity team in high school, chasing a college scholarship. Not, when they are on the 13U team, still trying to learn how to tie their shoes.
How do we Increase Speed in Youth Athletes?
There are several strategies that all lead to a faster, more agile athlete on the court, field or ice. However, I’ve narrowed it down to my top 5, and here they are:
We must allow young athletes to explore different movements and put them in different situations to problem solve and allow them to perform drills WITHOUT coaching. Explain the drill, then let them go. After the first few reps, you will most likely see that the athlete is figuring how to do the drill more efficiently. Coach what needs to be coached from there!
2. Arm Mechanics
I think we’ve all seen the athlete who runs with their arms flailing all over the place and out of control. Spend those couple minutes showing what their arms should look like when running, it will pay off BIG TIME. Hands open wide, one hand at your eye socket, one at your hip pocket and elbows slightly bent, GO!
3. Do it, drill it, repeat it
Break down the skill and objective of the drill, let them perform it, coach what needs to be fixed and keep practicing it. If you don’t have a coach, take a video of yourself and get instant feedback. Figure out what you did well and not so well.
4. Introduce Deceleration
Being able to decelerate and then re-accelerate is EXTREMELY overlooked in sports performance. The best athletes in the world are able to slow down, change direction and then blow past you, all in the blink of an eye. Learning how to control your body and decelerate will significantly reduce your chances of getting injured.
5. Games, Games, Games
Quite possibly the most important one, especially for athletes under 15 years old. Training should be fun. If it’s not, the athlete will probably stop training altogether. It’s important for the athletes to display the skills they learned in drills to an actual game scenario. Let the kids get after it with focused games that will allow them to have fun and feel the difference first hand!