This is an excerpt from Complete Conditioning for Lacrosse by Thomas Howley.
Speed and Agility
The sheer excitement generated for lacrosse can be traced to one primary element: speed! Sudden changes of possession, skillful offensive maneuvering, and defensive teamwork that can lock down and frustrate an offense all require the application of some element of speed and agility. Players who can explode into a full sprint, redirect with little apparent effort, and stick handle through a defense with the finesse of a magician are thrilling to watch! Speed and agility skills are the keys to success in lacrosse.
In order to be successful, every lacrosse player must have the movement fundamentals that enable him or her to execute the skills of the game with precision, quickness, and fluidity. Regardless of the position played on the field, all lacrosse players need to be fast, well-coordinated, and able to rapidly change direction and adapt to continuously changing circumstances. All training programs should include every facet of speed and athletic development in order to improve lacrosse movement skills. These include foot speed, acceleration, top-end speed, deceleration and lateral speed (agility) movements. These are all crucial elements of successful lacrosse training.
- Foot speed is the ability to maintain balance and body control, move the feet rapidly and skillfully in a restricted area, and move in the chosen direction quickly and with as little wasted motion as possible.
- Acceleration is the ability to transition to a sprint from either a stationary position or a slower tempo.
- Top-end speed is the ability to run at full speed. Although rarely achieved in most game situations, top-end speed is essential for midfielders during transition situations in which a 50- to 75-yard sprint is required into the offensive or defensive zones. When ball possession changes and play moves to the opposite end of the field, players must quickly re-direct and sprint full speed in order to get into position on the opposite end of the field.
- Deceleration is the ability to slow down or stop in as short a space as possible without compromising balance and body control.
- Agility, or change of direction, is the ability to put all movement skills together in a cohesive, well-coordinated manner. The ultimate goal of the training program is to transfer strength, power, balance, and flexibility to functional, useful game skills.
Foot Speed Development
Leverage, balance, and maximum body control are important for effectively controlling body movements during game situations. The process of improving these skills begins with coordinated footwork. Lacrosse players should utilize foot speed drills both to engage the neurological system after a dynamic warm-up (before more intense activity) and to improve balance and movement control. The following are some common foot speed drills.
Traditional ladder drills are an excellent way to train foot speed. Use either a commercial ladder or a homemade device. Athletes should typically perform 8 to 20 reps, depending on the overall volume of training planned for that day.
This exercise develops foot strike frequency in a pattern similar to the linear running motion.
Begin behind the ladder with both feet outside the first square.
- Run through the ladder, performing one foot strike per square (figure 5.1). Touch each square in the ladder before finishing through the final square.
- During each step, the body weight should be concentrated on the ball of the foot.
- The same upper-body technique used in linear speed drills should be employed during all foot speed drills. These will allow for efficient movement with as little wasted motion as possible.
Learn more about Complete Conditioning for Lacrosse.