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Why agility training is like learning to ride a bike
No pedals, no stabilisers
If, like me, you learnt to ride a bike using stabilisers, you might remember the various attempts of trying to do it without them.
For me this involves vague memories of pedalling like a lunatic with my Dad saying “I’ve got you” (when he blatantly hadn’t) and me steering into ditches.
I now have the joy teaching my kids how to ride a bike (or rather creating environments where they learn themselves). I got great advice from Ralph Colman cycles and bought a balance bike for Daisy. The reasoning was that the pedalling is easy, it is the balancing that is tricky for toddlers.
She rode this for about 18 months, then we switched to a pedal bike on her 4th birthday. After a few wobbly starts she was off and cycling on her own, no stabilisers. She can now do a 2 mile loop around our village with no trouble.
How does this relate to agility training?
Movement in sport can be classified as requiring 3 things:
- Force stabilisation (balance)
- Force reduction (braking)
- Force production (propulsion or pedalling for cycling!) (Vern Gambetta’s performance paradigm).
A lot of sport coaches work only on force production, mainly because it is easily measurable. How high can you jump? How much can you squat? How fast can you run 10 metres in? The problem with this is that very rarely do you have to do these things in isolation when playing sport.
What happens at the end of your 10m run? You either have to stop, make change of direction, execute a skill or make contact with an opponent.
What happens after you jump? You have to land!
Just working on force production (which looks like a quick fix) is a narrow focus and has a very limited application at best, and a high potential for injury at worst.
If you get all your athletes jumping higher, or able to run faster, without teaching them how to stabilise and brake, nasty things happen to their knees.
You are teaching them how to pedal faster using stabilisers, as soon as the stabilisers come off (they step into the sporting arena) they fall over!
What we do for our athletes
If you have a balance bike, you first learn how to balance, then how to brake, then how to propel yourself.
So in order to become more agile we:
- Build a foundation that works on stability and balance as well as strength
- Work on braking (hip, knee and ankle flexion) for 2 legs and 1 leg
- Work on propulsion in all directions, starting up, then forward, sideways and turning.
Once your athlete can do this, in conjunction with their technical and tactical training, your sporting performance has a much stronger base to launch from.
This then allows the athlete to perform their technical skills more consistently, faster and more safely.
You can then start to use agility drills that require decision making as part of a systematic agility training program.
As to my kid’s cycling, Jack seems more interested in practicing reversing up hills on his balance bike. You can’t win them all.
"James worked with the Exeter and Taunton based Southwest Talent Centre scholarship athletes. He is deeply knowledgeable about strength and conditioning and has excelled at working with young athletes. His sessions are challenging and fun and he has succeeded in blending a group of athletes from a diverse range of sports into a cohesive training group.
10 Apr 2019
Sporting success starts here
- Are you a sporting teenager who wants to get better?
- Do you play more than 1 sport?
- Do you want specific advice on how you can prepare for the matches ahead?
- Do you want to know how to balance school/ club sporting commitments?
- This day is for you.
The Day will include: