Teach your youth athletes this before that!


Why we need to teach Deceleration before Acceleration:

With so much emphasis on speed sometimes we forget that we need to be able to stop! Many injuries are caused from “non contact” injuries when an athlete stops quickly in order to change directions.

I watched a young girl blow out her knee in her “injury prevention warm-up”. Yikes! The warm-up was designed to help the athlete decrease her risk of injury and sure enough she increased her risk of injury doing it because it wasn’t progressed or coached.

I watched a young hockey player plow into the goal post at full speed only to have the entire arena hold their breath to see if he was going to be able to get up unharmed…that stuff makes me shiver… it’s so scary.

Where does the fault lie? No one wants their athlete to get hurt doing something that they’ve designed.

Something that we should always think about is “why are we doing this” and “are we doing this well”?

Let’s talk about action steps rather than dissecting what’s not working.

In order to help our athletes we have to go back to basics. Athletes need to understand how to position themselves in order to keep their body safe, while also making them as athletic as possible!

“Deceleration” drills should be introduced before working on “acceleration” drills. There’s no sense in sending a race care driver out on the track if she/he doesn’t know how to stop or turn! They’ll hit the gas and then run right into a wall! What good is that million dollar car if it is crumpled in a pile of metal in the corner?

Think of our body in the same way! What good is our body hurt and in pain? This is exactly what we want to avoid!

Therefore, we can work on a few deceleration drills with our athletes and groove good “stopping” patterns and then progress them so that our athletes can then change direction well.

First of all, a coach can have an athlete run forward and stop well at a designated spot. Once all of the athletes look good, then you can progress them, while always emphasizing a controlled stop to finish the movement.

Here are a few drills that you can do with your athletes:

In order to easily incorporate “stopping” and “change in direction” drills into your practice you can simply add them in at the end of your warm-up.

Move through your different dynamic movement patterns and then have your athletes take a few strides forward and then come to a complete and controlled stop. Have everyone do this together so you can visually see the control of the stop at the same time. Once everyone is comfortable doing this forward, add one change in direction to back pedal and then stop.

Work on lateral movements in the same way. In order for your athletes to come to a complete stop while preparing to change direction, they can practice stopping in what Bobby Smith calls the “sway stop”.

Here’s what the sway stop looks like:


As you can see the body is aligned in the best possible position to control the forces pushing in one direction. In order to absorb the lateral force, and then transfer it athletically to explode in the opposite direction the athlete learns how to “lean”. They absorb the force in a great way which sets them up for explosive speed while decreasing their risk of injury.

Teaching young athletes how to control their body will help them decrease their risk of injury while helping them develop athleticism that can transfer to their sport. This allows them to quickly change directions, stop and start to move with the play, and explode in order to be a dangerous player to contend with!

Here’s a quick drill for your athletes to get used to what this “sway stop” should feel like on both edges of the feet as the body moves from side to side:

Once this side to side movement looks good in this “skier drill” your athletes can start working on how to move laterally (side to side) and stop in the sway stop position. Once they can control the stop they can be progressed into more challenging drills to help them move well while decreasing their risk of injury!

Do you want more information? I’ve designed an entire course for Youth Sport Coaches to learn how to incorporate strength and conditioning into youth sport practices in order to improve their athlete’s performance while decreasing their risk of injury.

Click here to learn more!

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