Understanding Change of Direction: Why can’t you do it well?
Agility, footwork, and quickness are all terms people use when they are looking for answers and improvements in change of direction. Effective and efficient change of direction is a combination of the prior two qualities we addressed in the acceleration and deceleration excerpts.
The Pre-requisite Qualities for Effective Change of Direction
If you do not have the pre-requisite qualities required to accelerate and decelerate well, then obviously your ability to demonstrate those two qualities repeatedly won’t be very effective. To be an elite performer with your “agility,” you must have sufficient strength, joint space, connective tissue characteristics, and rate of force development coupled with the ability to sequence the acceleration, deceleration, and re-acceleration mechanics properly.
The Dynamic System of Athletics and Change of Direction
Athletics is a very open-ended dynamic system that has infinite potentials that can occur, suggesting any singular drill or movement is going to comprehensively prepare an athlete to change direction optimally in all moments is nonsense.
Preparing Athletes for Dynamic Events in Sports
Our goal is to equip athletes with a library of movement solutions myelinated into their system so when presented with dynamic events in sport they can respond most favorably. As we have already discussed in linear acceleration mechanics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Common Faults in Change of Direction
There are some common faults that occur when drilling change of direction with athletes. Let’s just assume the acceleration portion of the run is done properly and they are transitioning to deceleration in preparation for a change in direction. In these transitional phases of movement, we do not need to feel fast, we need to be fast and powerful.
Key Techniques for Effective Change of Direction
To bolster change of direction skills, athletes should emphasize:
- Forceful Arm Movements: Powerful arm movements can augment speed and momentum during change of direction.
- Swift Ground Coverage: Athletes should focus on covering ground quickly through forceful movements.
- Optimal Body Positioning: Maintaining a forward-leaning body posture with the shoulders slightly ahead of the feet can optimize balance and control.
- Ground Engagement: Athletes should strive to exert significant force into the ground to facilitate efficient change of direction.
- Proactive Drills: Anticipating the cut by adjusting torso angles can enhance responsiveness.
- Efficient Re-acceleration: Athletes should concentrate on maintaining a strong push-off during the transition phase for effective re-acceleration.
In conclusion, youth and high school athletes seeking to augment their agility, footwork, and quickness must understand the complexities of change of direction and focus on developing pre-requisite qualities. By recognizing common faults and implementing effective techniques, athletes can enhance their ability to change direction swiftly and thus increase their speed in sports. The path to becoming faster isn’t merely about relentless practice; it involves a dedicated and comprehensive training approach, wherein understanding the mechanics of change of direction is a critical first step.