(Editor’s Note: The Training Table is a series of editorials and columns from certified athletic trainers in the area regarding sports training, fitness and nutrition. Certified athletic trainers who wish to get involved and submit columns, photos and videos on a weekly or monthly rotation may contact Senior Editor Dan Stickradt by email at firstname.lastname@example.org)
BY DAVE PHILBRICK
Licensed Athletic Trainer
DMC Sports Performance Academy
Usain Bolt has it. Cristiano Ronaldo does too. Calvin Johnson, Justin Verlander and Pavel Datsuk all have it as well.
Speed is what every teenage, collegiate and professional athlete desires to have. They want to be faster in the 40-yard dash, get that first quick step on the soccer field, throw a 99 mph fast ball and skate past their opponent with blazing speed.
Genetics plays a key role in developing an athlete, However, it can’t be controlled. There are many factors that can be controlled that can influence speed and athletic development.
Games involving agility, balance and control should be the main focus for training athletes between the ages of 6-9. All games should be fun and incorporate body weight exercises to improve core strength and proprioception in order to allow that athlete to maintain control during fast movements during sports.
During this age bracket many athletes have no control over their bodies when they jump, decelerate, or change direction. When they do a drill, they see the objective and work to obtain it while doing it at top speed. In efficient training at this level will set them up for decreased speed and injuries.
Training in short 5 second intervals with the focus on balance and control will help build the foundation to become a faster athlete.
The most important window of motor development is between the ages of 9-12 for males and 8-11 for females. This is the stage where children learn fundamental sports skills. Bypassing the previous stage of controlling one’s body could make this stage quite frustrating for an athlete and could lead to an injury. Strength should be developed using medicine balls, swiss balls and doing body weight exercises for balance and flexibility. Adding in speed, agility and quickness drills related to multiple sports will help mold athletic ability. Early specialization in one sport at this age can lead to decreased athletic ability and injury.
When males reach the age of 12-16 and females 11-15, the development of a solid aerobic and strength base begins. After a major growth spurt, emphasis on endurance and strength training should be priority while maintaining speed, agility and quickness drills as well as flexibility and balance.
Early or late physical maturation plays a vital role in timing of aerobic and strength training. In this age bracket, the technique of linear, lateral and multidirectional speed should be introduced. This is an important stage and priority should be placed on training and learning the necessary skills to play sports.
Too much emphasis on competition will lead to a plateau in the next stage and the athlete will not reach his or her full potential.
Many athletes and parents want the high intensity, best mechanics, unlimited drills and training, a sort of “quick fix” to increase speed and athleticism. Skipping the previous steps in the athletic speed development will not allow the intense competition stage to happen naturally and will stunt the athletic growth of an athlete.
For the training to compete stage, males from 16-18 years and females from 15-17 years should focus on sport performance and training along with increased sport development programs. Performance training focusing on mobility, muscle activation, core and functional training, nutrition and recovery should lay the foundation for higher training. Intense training with running and jumping mechanics along with playing against tougher competition will propel the athlete to reach his or her goals of athletic speed.
Recently, I trained a junior college football player who played the defensive end position. His goals were to become faster in the 40 yard dash, increase his lateral quickness and add more muscle and size.
Having never worked with him before, I did not know his strengths and weakness or restrictions. We began with an assessment of his flexibility, strength, functional movement and finally speed tests. After fixing his mobility issues with his ankles and hips, increasing his core and glute strength, tweaking his mechanics with his sprinting and cutting pattern, and counseling him on his athletic diet, he saw great results. He decreased his 40 yard dash time from 5.35s to 4.64 and added 20 pounds of muscle and is now being recruited by several Division I schools.
Athletic speed is on everyone’s wish list and will separate the good athletes from the great. Following the long term athletic development model will give any athlete the opportunity to control his or her destiny.
For more information on sports performance training, contact the DMC Sports Performance Academy at (248) 874-1018. DMC Sports Performance Academy specializes in athletic development and returning to sports from injuries and is located inside the Ultimate Soccer Arenas in Pontiac, Michigan.
(Dave Philbrick is a certified athletic trainer for DMC Sports Performance Academy and a contributor to The Training Table at www.northoaklandsports.com and The Real Deal sports and coupons magazine. He can be reached by email at DPhilbri@dmc.org.)