Agility and Reaction Training

BEAST’s goal when training our athletes is, at a minimum, to maximize their performance on the field. If possible, our ambition is to develop our athletes into: Scholarship Players, High School/Collegiate All-Conference Players, All-State Players, and/or to facilitate entry into Colleges through excellence in athletic performance.

Agility and Reaction Training

by Christopher Bogannam

So I’ll start off with another fighting analogy here – short but sweet.

Imagine yourself in a boxing ring. Mickey squirts some water into your mouth and mumbles something about eating lightning and crapping thunder. The bell goes, “Ding … ding” and you shuffle out to the center of the ring. Only problem is you’re fighting Ivan Drago, in Russia, and he’s about to go into spetsnaz mode. Round one ends and your face looks like a pepperoni pizza. What went wrong?

The truth of the matter is that Ivan Drago was simply bigger, faster, and stronger.

That’s probably not the first time you’ve heard those words in that sequence. After all, most athletes want to be either one, two, or all three of those things.

You want to be bigger? I’ll point your attention to dumbbells and barbells to make some progress on that front. Stronger? Look to the same implements, with the addition of some other pieces of both conventional and unconventional equipment. And yes, I’ll point you over to the glute ham raise, box jump, and box squat to get faster too, but only some of the time – well, most of the time.

Again, the topic of translation from weight room performance to game time performance must be addressed when trying to improve speed. Not only do we need to build up the required musculature, we must also address agility and reaction to fully complete the puzzle. Integration of these ideas is what separates the good, the bad, and the ugly. An athlete may score well on their optometrist’s vision test, but the set of eyes they need on the playing field are much different. Athletic vision is dynamic; players must constantly see and react to what is going on all around them. External stimuli can present itself in a number of forms, from auditory, visual, or tactile. Reaction time is simply how long it takes for a player initiate physical movement in response to any one of these things.

There are a number of factors that influence an athlete’s reaction time. Undoubtedly some of it comes down to innate ability. Some people are just faster than others. There’s a long list of other factors that can influence reaction time as well such as level of fitness, age, body temperature, and emotional state of mind. Regardless, this remains an aspect of performance that can be improved.

Let’s take a look at some of the training methods that can be utilized to improve agility and response time:

1) Agility Ladder: A common tool with a wide range of possibilities. The athlete can work foot quickness, timing, and balance in multiple directions. The lacrosse goalie in the video can be seen working patterns with stick in hand, or in combination with other exercises like sprints or sled pushes.

2) 4-square box: Another great method used in conjunction with the ladder. Athletes can move through the box on both feet or isolate one leg. Again, different patterns with varying difficulties make this a useful tool for different types of athletes.

3) Closed Cone Drills: Closed drills have the athlete following a pre determined pattern. During these exercises we work to improve proper body mechanics.

4) Open Cone Drills: Open drills do not follow any sort of predetermined set of movements. These types of exercises allow the trainer to implement various forms of external stimuli to help work reaction time. The lacrosse goalie can be seen doing drills where she needs to respond to visual cues, auditory commands, or both. One example shown has the goalie in the center of a 4 cone square. With each cone being a different color, the trainer calls out a certain color and the goalie has to first recall what direction that colored cone is in, then physically respond by touching it and returning to the center. We do this and other variations in quick spurts, again trying to focus on utilizing and improving that brain to muscle connection.

While these are just a few examples, the possibilities are almost endless and can be catered to the individual and their chosen sport.

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