Why Athletes NEED “Speed and Agility” – Especially Since 2010


Before 2010, there was something different about athletes.

After 2010, maybe 2012, there was a change. I call this a de-evolution of the athlete.

Yesterday, I spoke with a NFL Strength Coach and he said he saw the same thing with guys in the NFL.

Let me explain:

Before 2010, the majority of my athletes were athletic. They did not specialize until 11th grade. Our Football players would play pick up Basketball in the Spring 2 x week, we called this "street ball".

They were also more fit and had higher levels of GPP. They had jobs on weekend mowing lawns or helping a contractor so they pushed wheelbarrows filled with sand, carried cinder blocks and bricks.

They also wanted to be STRONG. 

Strength was respected. Valued. It was something athletes knew they needed. It also built confidence, which is a transfer of training that few talk about.

Since 2010, we've seen a lot of changes in Strength & Conditioning, which I prefer to call Sports Performance but what's the difference? 

We are building better athletes, physically and mentally.  

  • Athletes today don't worship strength. In fact, some of them fear it.
  • Parents never say to me, "My kid needs to get STRONG!" They request "Speed & Agility". "Core Strength".

My buddy in the NFL said that some of the skill guys fear squats because they want to be lighter and believe this lighter bodyweight makes them faster. Testing reveals that they are not that much faster, they just believe they are faster.

Today, the athletes that come to The Underground Strength Gym are NOT as athletic as they were pre 2010. Asking an athlete to perform a forward roll and often times we see what looks like a body slam.

Below, Warm Up / Athletic Prep Filmed in 2012

The athletes today need more all around sports performance.

They lack more strength and muscle than ever before.

Never did I think push ups would be a struggle for high school athletes but every day I am proven wrong.

My friend who has been a high school Strength Coach in NJ for 15 years told me he no longer introduces push ups for freshman. Instead, they begin with the bench press, often times the boys are using a 35 lb barbell to start benching.

Pre 2010 we did not need extra speed and agility because our Football players also played Basketball and LAX. Our wrestlers played Soccer or Football. They were all around athletic.

Football players often played pick up Basketball in the Spring time 2 nights a week. This was their sprinting, jumping, change of direction and conditioning.

Today, it gets athletes to "believe" in the program.

Here are some short clips from what you see today and then YouTube videos pre 2010. 

One thing I noticed in our athletes was we were very fast but struggled with deceleration, change of direction and game speed. 

  • I began adding deceleration drills every time we sprinted
  • I began cycling in phases from TriPhasic / Cal Dietz where we had slow eccentrics and isometric work.
  • I used Game Speed (See Tony Villani) for athletes who were not field athletes, such as wrestlers and swimmers to improve their sports performance.

Is "speed and agility" bad? Absolutely not.

The bad comes from the fads and gimmicks that have no purpose, or drills performed too advanced for a weak athlete.

Sprinting in my opinion is one of the best forms of developing full body speed and power. You can also assess an athletes movement and muscular imbalances by recording sprints from head on and sideways using an iPhone, then slowly play the video and you get excellent feedback on where the athlete is weak or struggling.

At my high school we sprint outside regularly up a slight incline.

Here's some video footage:


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A post shared by Midd South S&C (@middsouthsc)

And now, compare my older videos which as you see were pure "strength & conditioning":

2017 Training:

Training from 2014:

Training from 2013:

Training from 2011:

Today, I notice I am much more conservative with strength work. 

I am constantly harping on technique and this certainly means weights will be less.

We also trained harder back then with regards to effort. "Training Harder" can be evaluated via total volume of work as well, but the athletes I worked with pre 2010 were more aggressive in training than the kids I come across today.

Certainly, I am much smarter today than pre 2010 but the big change that is difficult to measure if the attitude of athletes today.

What I mean by this is they want speed work. They believe in "speed ladders", cone drills, etc.

They (Athletes, Parents & Coaches) believe LESS in squats and getting stronger for sports performance.

It's a shame because my strongest athletes were the best athletes. They were fast, powerful and tough. They were durable and could go to practice, lift at school AND lift at The Underground. They didn't have an emotional breakdown when they got busy in season.

As a Coach, you must understand that the psychology of athletes today plays a role in how you should train athletes and how they will respond not just to the training, but your style of coaching.

Until the next time, Live The Code 365.


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