AGILITY for sports performance

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Agility is the bodies ability to make a quick change of direction efficiently without losing balance. Agility requires the body to move with coordination, speed, power and balance and is often required from unpredictable actions on the sports park, such as an opposing player or ball movement.

It would be expected that a professional sprinter would beat a first grade footballer in a straight line sprint race. But what do you think would happen if they lined up for a zig-zag sprint?

A sprinter uses planned and predictable linear, or straight line movements to produce power in a single direction. Their arm swing is straight forward, their knees raise in front of the body and they push off in a forward direction.

The ability to run at full pace and change direction around an opponent requires a deceleration, re-orientation of the whole body and then a re-acceleration. When cutting or changing direction your bodies centre of gravity will lower, your stride length will shorten in anticipation of the quick change in direction and your push off will be explosive. This is where a footballer would have the edge over a faster sprinter in tasks requiring multiple direction and speed changes such as football and netball.

As with plyometrics , specific agility training will improve neuromuscular co-ordination to prevent injury and improve performance. Several studies have shown that straight sprint training has limited transfer over into agility tasks and vice versa. The improvements come from the learning of new nerve firing patterns, which means you need to be as specific as possible for your sports actions.

For example, a football player would need to develop agility in a cutting action & dribbling a ball at their feet. A netballer requires the agility to dodge and cut whilst catching and throwing a netball. To increase your reaction time, you can also take off on the sound of a whistle.

Check out our clip to see some great agility drills for football & netball.

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