Should Team Sport Athletes Perform Speed Training?
Updated: Oct 3, 2018
Speed Influences Matches
Sprinting and acceleration are cornerstones of most team sports. The advantages of being quick are undeniable and quite obvious: you’ll get to the ball first, cross the line first, make it to the base, catch your opponent and so forth.
And what’s even more interesting — and arguably of greater importance — is the influence speed can have, either consciously or subconsciously, on the technical, tactical and psychological performance of an athlete and team.
Tactical and Psychological
A winger that steps on to the field knowing that they are quicker than their opponent has a huge advantage psychologically. Straight away the winger’s confidence is up and they’ll be more inclined to take on their opponent in a 1 vs. 1 situation.
Similarly, superior speed allows an athlete to take up riskier or more advanced positions on the field, as they know they have the speed to get back in to position. A particularly speedy player might also allow a coach to implement tactics that they might not have considered otherwise, thus speed can influence tactical decisions and strategy.
Not All Coaches Are Sold on Speed Training
It’s clear that an individual athlete’s performance, and the game as a whole, can be altered dramatically by speed. Yet there is a wide range of opinion on whether or not speed training is useful for team sport athletes. Some coaches will insist on speed training, some will do all they can to avoid it and some will argue that team sport athletes get all the speed training they need from playing their sport.
Speed Within the Sport
Speed, in the context of team sports, is multifactorial and not as straight forward (pardon the pun) as a 100m track race. Teammates, opponents, tactics, rackets, the ball, fatigue, the weather and cognitive processing abilities all influence how quick an athlete is on their field.
However, by adding some basic mechanical proficiency and speed training to a team sport athlete’s strength and conditioning program, they can come closer to realising their full speed and acceleration potential within the context of their sport, which can have a big impact on their performance.
Team Sport Athletes Should Train Speed
Speed training isn’t going to turn every athlete into a sub 10 second 100m sprinter and team sport athletes don’t need to dedicate training time to analysing how best to optimise the most technical nuances of sprinting. This level of detail might be useful for an elite sprinter but it’s probably not an effective use of time for team sport athletes.
Time spent learning basic sprinting techniques and concepts can pay dividends and in a day and age where the margins between glory and glorious failure are so small, it simply makes sense to include at least some type of formalised speed training in a team sport athlete's strength and conditioning program.
This article is taken from Jon's e-book The Basics of Speed and Acceleration for Team Sport Athletes which you can download for free here