Most of you (if not all) probably don't know I have a true love for the game of Softball. It started in college and has continued. I blame Jennie Finch. As a strength coach I make a point to go watch as many sporting events as possible. I believe it shows the kids that you care and I think it's fun to see them perform in their sport. If you just see them in the weight room you never get an appreciation for what type of athlete they really are.
Last spring I spent quite a bit of time watching Softball. I like it because the trainers park a Gator next to the dugout and that's where I sit. I don't have to be with the common fans and this makes me feel special.
Lots of rambling... I'm getting to my point. We are SLOW! It's all fine and dandy to get stronger to help with speed, but at a certain point I think you have to clean up/teach some BASIC footwork and running skills.
This will irritate the Sprinting technique guru's, but it just isn't that hard to make improvements in speed and agility. The head coach contacted me and asked if I could work with them this fall. So, I've been up there 2-3 a week working on some of the most basic stuff and the improvements are great. The coaching staff and the players are so appreciative and it makes me feel great. But, what I'm doing is so basic a monkey could run the drills.
So, what have I done to look like such a genius?
- Added jumping to their warm-up. I always warm them up even if they just finished practice. It's abbreviated from a normal warm-up, but I just want to make sure their hips, groin and hamstrings are loose. After that we do Broad Jumps - about 10 touches. Sometimes we Broad Jump and stick the landing. Sometimes we Double Broad Jump (jump/bounce/stick the landing). Double leg, single leg... variations.
- Added change of direction work. Softball coaches love distance running and base running (in my experience). Rarely do they do basic agility/cone drills (again, in my experience). I had them do the same cone/agility drills that I have football do. As they got a feel for the different drills and began to understand the idea I started to incorporate some movements that they MIGHT do in a game.
Really simple stuff.
The one thing I made sure to do was create a progression to what we do. The second drill builds off the first drill, etc...
- Day 1/Drill 1: Straight line sprints - 10 yards (no focus on starts - just sprints)
- Drill 2: Put an emphasis on starts (footwork/body position)
- Drill 3: Emphasis arm action
- I did 4 reps of each drill.
- Drill 4: Start/Change of Direction - Sprint 10/Back pedal 5/Sprint 10
- Drill 5: Start/Lateral/Diagonal Change of Direction - Sprint 5 and change direction on a 45 degree angle to next cone and then finish in straight line.
- From here I just started doing different agility drills.
Each day I start with the straight line sprints focusing on the start. From there I am now incorporating some movements they might use in a game (base stealing, opening hips to react to a hit ball... anything I can think of.
Regardless of the drill, my focus is on their feet first then their arm action.
NONE of these drills are sport-specific. They are just general drills to get them moving, stopping, shuffling, opening their hips in a direction with a focus on where their toe is pointed.
Since begining this 4 weeks ago the coaching staff is raving about how much better they look and move. The best part for me is that the girls are noticing a difference and that's what really matters.
My advice: no matter what sport you work with find some football cone drills and teach your athletes how to do them. In my opinion, no drills like this are sport-specific (I said football because football has thousands of cone drills to choose from). They are simply drills that get the athletes moving and changing direction in a variety of different ways. If they get better at the general skill, it can be reasoned that those basic skills will be adapted to their sport, simply because they have a better awareness of a few basic ideas.
I keep it simple and it seems to work all the time.