Thursday, July 31, 2008

Improve Your Running Speed During Team Practices

A middle school athlete and I were talking about football practice and improving running speed.

He asked me about ways to improve his speed and I replied to him to sprint 50 yards with each handoff to him as a running back. That way he gets in speed work during practice and not after practice.

For example, if a coach had players doing speed work at the end of practice, general conditioning would probably be achieved rather than the desired increase in optimum speed development. You must train fast to get faster.

Running backs, defensive backs and receivers should do all speed and agility drills at full speed.

That way, you train your body to play the game as fast as possible (maximum speed is rarely reached during a game). The body and the central nervous system adapts to the way you practice. So, if you practice slow, you will play the game slow!

Here is a real life example. Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice is legendary for his work ethic and practice habits. During practice, he would sprint all the way to the end zone after each catch. The San Francisco 49ers used a lot of short passes in their west coast offense.

Guess what? Jerry Rice turned many short receptions into long gains or touchdowns. I never saw anyone "run him down" during a game and Jerry was not a 4.3 second 40 yard dash guy. But, he played the game faster than the opponents. Why? Because he practiced fast! Yards-after-catch (YAC) became a popular statistic because of guys like Jerry Rice.

You definitely play the game the way you practice it!

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Mark Dilworth, BA, PES
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