- On April 27, 2016
Unlocking the True Secrets of Game Specific Speed
Being fast on the field, court or ice during a game is not simply a matter of being fast over a 40 yard sprint or pro agility test. While having these fundamental aspects of speed is certainly an advantage, we often see great players who seem fast in the game, but whom don’t really stand out on the classic speed and agility tests.
Coaches and scientists around the world now use terms such as “game speed”, “sport speed” or “specific speed” to describe this specific ability to be fast when it is needed, and seemingly faster than anyone else in the game.
In 2003 the inventors of SMARTSPEED set out to make a system that could test and train not just the standard speed qualities, but to also give users many options for assessing and improving these other critical aspects of speed for sport.
The Speed Agility Pyramid
Improving speed for sport involves a combination of factors that can be represented by what we call the “Speed Agility Pyramid”. Moving through the pyramid involves taking an athlete’s potential, and maximising it to deliver the optimum game performance.
The Speed Agility Pyramid defines speed and agility for sport as having five levels.
Fundamental Speed and Power Qualities (Athleticism)
These are the building blocks for sport speed, and an important pre-requisite to being able to produce speed in competition. Fusion Sport technology can be used here in a number of ways:
- Straight line running speed – measuring acceleration, top speed, speed maintenance using SMARTSPEED
- Technique – measuring ground contact times using SMARTJUMP and SMARTSPEED, using live video feedback and analysis using SMARTCAPTURE and Dartfish video software
- Power – performing Plyometric training optimally using SMARTJUMP’s real-time feedback functions
- Repeated speed – Using SMARTSPEED to run interval protocols for sports where speed must be produced repeatedly
Planned Change of Direction (COD)
Often referred to as “agility”, planned COD involves rapid accelerations and decelerations for changing direction in a known pattern. In planned COD work, the athlete learns the correct techniques for making efficient and fast changes of direction, and develops power and strength specific to these movement patterns. Fusion Sport applications include:
- SMARTSPEED free timing mode can be used to run any planned agility course imaginable in training and testing.
- SMARTCAPTURE and Dartfish can be used to perform video analysis of COD technique and provide instant visual feedback to the athlete.
- SMARTJUMP can be used to perform single or multiple response Plyometrics at various angles to develop reactive strength in more specific movements.
Unplanned Change of Direction
Now is where it starts to get interesting. Many people stop at planned COD training and leave the rest of the pyramid to game play itself. However, these remaining qualities are vital, and must still be trained methodically and deliberately in order to truly maximise performance.
Unplanned COD training begins to develop an athlete’s ability to change speed and direction as quickly as possible in response to a stimulus. This is where the SMARTSPEED system really begins to stand out from the competition.
Choose from a variety of drills for training unplanned COD such as CUTS, SERPENTINE or GRID drills, and make your own variations that are specific to the movements in your sport.
Many coaches are already performing unplanned COD drills in their training sessions, using voice prompts, hand signals or holding up coloured cards to athletes while running to make them react and change direction. So if you can already do this, why should you use SMARTSPEED to do it instead?
- Variety of cues – if you use reactive drills like holding out a hand or holding up a card, you are only requiring the athlete to ever look in one place – straight ahead. In sport however, reactive signals are often at a variety of angles or even behind the athlete. SMARTSPEED remote units can be placed anywhere on the field, and can therefore create more realistic drills which challenge a wider variety of abilities. With our patented GRID drills, you can challenge athletes to react in a full 360 degree space, and really push the limits for perception and hard direction changes.
- Motivation and feedback – SMARTSPEED will not only make the athletes react, but it gives real-time accurate times on every repetition. This challenges the athletes to perform these drills at 100% effort at all times, rather than slowing down to wait for the cue and react.
- Administration – if you are standing there holding out your hand, you have a restricted ability to coach. If one of your athletes needs coaching, you can’t do it, because the next person in line is on their way. Let SMARTSPEED run the drill for you, leaving you free to actually COACH!
Once your athlete get used to fast reactive changes of direction, take your drills to the next level by including equipment such as balls or pucks and get athletes reacting while dribbling. Then, to make drills even more specific, you can use SMARTSHOXX to integrate targets and really start to make it specific.
If you are doing research in this area, SMARTSPEED offers cues which are always at exactly the same time, thus offering much greater reliability and reproducibility compared to reactive protocols involving human signals.
Sport Specific Agility
When SMARTSPEED was first released, some people said that you couldn’t use flashing lights in agility training, because “there are no lights on a sporting field to tell athlete where to go during a game.”
We completely agree! Well, kind of.
The use of SMARTSPEED light and audio signals by themselves is not 100% sport specific. BUT, like any form of training, it is all about a continuum approach. There are no squat racks on the field either, yet we still do strength training to underpin the qualities our athletes need in sport.
When you add DEFENDERS and TEAM MATES into SMARTSPEED reactive drills, then you are starting to work towards really specific agility training.
Offensive/defensive confrontational speed is critical to many sports, yet again many people neglect to train this in a methodical way in regular training. Skills such as how to fake an opponent, how to throw false signals and defensively how to read them, are all SO important to game speed performance. Often the best players are those who have mastered these abilities, yet it seems many coaches think these are just natural talents, or things which can only be developed on the field.
Can we perform training that really improves these capabilities? Of course we can!
SMARTSPEED reactive drills provide you with an ideal framework for methodically training athletes to read and fake other players, work with team mates and perform skills under pressure in reactive situations. Again, all of this is done with electronically timed feedback to maximise motivation and competition in every drill.
These are the drills where you bring it all together and create highly specific game simulations to stress all the elements – speed, agility, endurance, skills, decision making, peripheral vision, strategy and team work. THIS is true “agility” training.
SO, how do you do it?
Small sided games are a popular way of providing athletes with sport specific agility training. Half or full court scrimmages, various touch/flag football variations are all great ways to train agility. But they too have their limitations.
Often in a small sided game you will have a goal, line or basket to work towards. When you get the ball, you always know which way you are going. This leads to the formation of established CHANNELS, in which some players will hide from the demands of the game, and let other people do all the work.
So how do you overcome this?
We call it GRIDBALL. GRIDBALL is a patented SMARTSPEED game that is like a normal game, but the goals keep moving! SO, each time a team scores, only then to do they find out where they are going next. This chaotic addition to the normal game eradicates those established channels – there is now nowhere to hide!
And with GRIDBALL, the system can even run two or three games in the same space as the same time. Imagine – 3 defensive teams, 3 offensive teams, 3 balls, and 6 random goals! Now that is what you call overloading the senses.
It makes sense that the best way to challenge agility is to simply lay the actual sport. But what if you could play a game specific activity that is actually much harder than the sport itself?
Training speed and agility for sport needs to involve a combination of training methods – just like you do for training strength and power. Fusion Sport’s SMARTSPEED system and its various accessories provides you with a wide range of options for training ALL of these qualities, and developing true game speed in your athletes.
Other timing gate systems can only address the bottom of the pyramid, and even then, they are so hard to use you are unlikely to do it every day. SMARTSPEED is a system which is so simple, and so powerful, you will use it in every speed session to motivate and challenge your athletes like never before.