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Developing a Coach’s Eye

Developing a Coach's Eye

We all have strengths and limitations that define our perspective in speed development. The strength coach that comes primarily from the weight-room might look at strength being the primary determinant of speed. The sports scientist might frame speed in terms of ground reaction time. The track coach sees stride length and stride frequency…

I consider myself very lucky in that I developed a wholistic view of speed. When I started to learn about multi-directional speed, there wasn’t much on this topic from a research standpoint. I was lucky to not live in the Youtube era where I might have been swayed by the thousands of videos with a “wow-factor” drill focus.

You might be asking yourself why I considered myself lucky for not having research and quick YouTube access to multi-directional speed material. I am glad I have plenty of access now, however; I developed a very important skill by not having access to much information.

My influence of how athletic speed occurs was developed by watching. There was no other choice; watching athletes on old film back in the 80’s, live during practices, and in real time during a game. I know what I saw, I just didn’t know what I was “seeing”. What I mean by this is athletes were covering distance and getting from one place to another, and even though some used their limbs differently than others, they still had similar characteristics.

By not having quick YouTube access and lack of literature on multi-directional speed, I developed a “coaches-eye” by witnessing thousands of reps over and over. As I studied more about the science what might be lacking in some athlete’s movement efficiency, my ability to see also became my ability to understand.

I was able to categorize movement into three areas allowing me to quickly assess potential limitations in an athlete’s movement.

Biomechanics- If I noticed the athletes was not very efficient, due to position of limbs and postures of upper and lower body, I identified it as a mechanical issue.

Strength/Power- Many times athletes are unable to hit positions and postures simply because they lack strength. Or, I notice they are unable to project their body forward explosively due to low levels of power.

Motor Learning- Often I see athletes understand what to do, but they just are not able to coordinate the pattern well. With each rep, the seemed to be getting closer to the efficient skill. This, I know to be a motor learning issue and they simply need more reps.

When you can quickly identify one or more of these issues in your athletes, it allows you to have an idea of the potential next steps for that athlete. Sometimes, in the case of motor learning, it is a matter of getting out of the way and letting them gain more experience. Other times it is about giving them more horsepower to be able to move their body easier. Or, simply working on changing how they hold their body and limbs as they move through space.

In some cases, all three categories need help. This is what we get paid the big bucks for…

  • Assess
  • Address
  • Implement
  • Feedback

We must understand, although multi-directional speed is a natural occurring series of skills born out of task completion through competition, athletes can lack biomechanics to move efficiently, strength to apply appropriate force, or motor learning to have accurate skill patterning.

If you are a young coach just starting out and want to understand how to help athletes move better, become effective at identifying these three areas of movement.

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