11 Tips for Building Lateral Speed and Agility

So what kinds of activities can help improve agility? Try some of these:

  1. Partner holds a ball in each hand and faces the player. The partner drops both balls and the player must control both balls before the second bounce.
  2. Player in front runs the field with a player shadowing every move. Encourage the front player to change speed and direction often. Also do this with each facing each other, where the shadow player does the opposite of their partner.
  3. Jumping rope is great. Try some of these variations: typical two-foot jump, stride jumps (swap forward foot on each jump), crossover jumps, single-leg jumps.
  4. Line steps: Stand to the side of a field line or rope, step over the line with near foot and then the trail leg as fast as possible, then back. See how many can be done in 10 seconds. Make it harder by having the players do this over a cone or ball.
  5. A speed ladder is a vinyl ladder you roll out on the field. Have players run through (always as fast as possible) with one foot in each space. Then do two-foot jumps forward. Step sideways on the left and step the right foot in, then the left foot in, then out to the right, then back to the left and so on. Lateral crossover steps. Shuffle sideways straight through the ladder leading with the left foot, then back leading with the right. Some ladders have different distances from rung to rung and that is fine. A speed ladder is a good investment.
  6. Put players in the "ready position," and on command the players immediately hop and turn 90 degrees, plant, then immediately return back to the front. On the next command, turn to the other direction. Football players do this a lot.
  7. Set up your corner flags in a slalom course (not always in a straight line). Players run fast through the course, emphasizing the plant of the outside foot and cut tight around the flag. Make sure girls run this low, bending at the hips and knees.
  8. 5-10-5 shuttle: Going sideways, each player runs as fast as possible five yards to the right, 10 yards to the left, then five back to the right.
  9. Icky Shuffle: Use the speed ladder and stand to the left to start. Always lead with foot next to the ladder. Step in with the right, follow with the left, then out to the right with the right foot, then into the next space with the left, follow with the right, then out with the left, etc. Do it yourself, looks like the Icky Shuffle, if you remember Cincinnati Bengals running back Icky Woods' touchdown dance. Try this going backwards, too.
  10. How about one foot landing in the space, hopping to two feet out, then back in, landing on the other foot, and so on.
  11. Back to No. 6. Now do the jumps turning 90 degrees, and back to the front, then 180 degrees and back, then 270 degrees, finally 360 degrees. Do this in both directions.

There are literally hundreds of drills one can do to improve agility. Basketball and football coaches are good resources, as are numerous books on conditioning. Check you local library or bookstore.

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