By: Coach K-Mac
Speed Development Considerations for Youth Athletes
In the world of athletics, speed is often a coveted skill. Coaches and athletes alike understand the importance of speed, especially when it comes to sprinting. However, speed development is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and it’s crucial to tailor training programs to the specific needs of youth athletes. In this blog post, we’ll explore some essential considerations for developing speed in young athletes, with a focus on a magic exercise known as the Flying 10 and the significance of timing in speed training.
The Magic Exercise: The Flying 10
Imagine a magical exercise that could help young athletes reach velocities of eight meters per second safely and consistently, producing rapid improvements in their sprinting abilities. Well, such an exercise does exist, and it’s called the Flying 10. This exercise can be performed 6-8 times per week at 97-100% effort for months on end, making it a potent tool for speed development.
Knowing Your Current Speed
Before embarking on any speed development program, it’s crucial to understand your baseline speed. As the saying goes, “Everybody is fast until the timer comes out.” To truly improve speed, athletes must consistently run fast in training and be timed regularly, ideally twice a week year-round. Without precise timing, it’s challenging to gauge progress and make meaningful adjustments to training programs.
Measurement and Management
The mantra “what gets measured gets managed” holds true in speed development. Coaches should record, rank, and publish athletes’ times to create an environment of healthy competition and self-improvement. Sprinting isn’t just a test; it’s a tool that should be used consistently in training.
Maintaining Speed and Mass
In contact sports, adding body mass without losing speed is crucial for generating greater forces during competition. Bryan Mann’s Sprint Momentum Formula emphasizes the importance of maintaining speed while increasing body mass, leading to improved sprint momentum.
Common Mistakes in Speed Development
Several mistakes are commonly made in speed development programs:
- Lack of variety: Most lifting and plyometrics tend to be vertical and bilateral, neglecting the need for unilateral and horizontal work.
- Misleading sprinting claims: Many claim to be sprinting without actually reaching the required speed thresholds for true speed work.
- Ignoring athlete well-being: Athletes should only sprint when they feel physically prepared. Injuries can disrupt training and hinder progress.
The Importance of Timing
For running to be considered speed work, athletes should aim to run at 90% or faster of their maximum speed for a given distance. Timing not only creates intent but also intrinsic competition. When timing athletes, it’s crucial to focus on one athlete at a time, limit the number of sprints per day, and prioritize athlete well-being to prevent injuries.
Innovative Training Approaches
Consider incorporating innovative training approaches, such as sled marches for strength, sled sprints for power, power skipping, and unilateral plyometrics. Additionally, emphasize shorter fly-ins (5-20 yards) in your Flying 10s to capitalize on athletes’ top speed potential.
Developing speed in youth athletes requires a systematic and measured approach. The Flying 10 exercise, precise timing, and thoughtful training strategies can help athletes reach their speed goals safely and effectively. By addressing common mistakes and prioritizing athlete well-being, coaches can guide young athletes toward becoming faster and more agile competitors on the field or track. Remember, speed development is a journey, and every step forward is a step toward success.