Most athletes and coaches strive for increased speed as an important aspect of their training. To achieve that goal, our summer program incorporates a lot of sprint mechanics out on the field and track. We also employ a great system for training multiple athletes at once called the grid system.
To set up the grid, place four rows of cones 15 yards long with 5 yards between each row. Then have your athletes perform various drills simultaneously within the grid. It is a great way to organize the way athletes and coaches move about the field, because they can see each other performing the drills rather than moving in a straight line across the football field.
The grid is fantastic for agility work, and we added sprint mechanics to it as well.
Sprint Mechanic Drills
Several years ago, I was exposed to a series of sprint mechanic drills called wall drills. Athletes perform wall drills by placing their hands against the wall and following a progression of coaching ques that focus on posture and driving the knees towards the wall.
Here is an example of wall drills if you are not familiar with them:
We have a hallway outside of our weight room and this gives a great space for us to utilize this space and train. In the summer we do these wall drills outside against a fence.
I really had to seek out a lot of information on speed work, it wasn’t my forte to be honest. I remember another clinic on a Saturday that talked about the knee drive, as well posture – this clinic occurred prior to my weekend learning from Loren Landow. Posture was a new concept to me in coaching sprinting. Loren discussed this in his presentation on wall drills and I figured if it kept coming up there must be something to it and I had better pay attention to it.
What is Your Why?
I wrote earlier about spending time with Jimmy Radcliffe and his concept of finding your why in training athletes. You can read the article here: Getting Your Students to Buy into Weight lifting. He spoke of how the warm-up is the workout before the workout and how his Dynamic Warm-Up with correlates to Speed. He likened it to an opera singer hitting the high notes in a dress rehearsal before taking the stage. His presentation focused on these key points:
- Attack the ground – Propel forward off the ground rather then pull off the ground.
- Drive knees father apart than the feet to attack the ground. If the feet are farther apart than the knees, the athlete is now pulling instead of pushing. Piston vs Pendulum.
- Hips are the primary force of movements, Push out and drive knees apart.
- Top of Head / Straight Line Stick Figure posture – this allows the hips to do their job.
- Stop practicing bad habits – Warm Up vs Dress Rehearsal.
Training to be a Super Ball
I have used Coach Radcliffe’s analogy of a super ball vs. a tomato – mostly as a metaphor for training, and specifically on game day. The more time an athlete’s feet are on the ground the more they are like a tomato. The less time the feet are on the ground the more they are like a super ball.
Coach Radcliffe continued this message as it pertains to sprinting: If the athlete isn’t applying this concept to training all the time they are training to be a tomato instead of a super ball. I had understood this concept to activating the CNS on game-day by having our athletes train, and I had applied this concept via the wall drills. I quickly realized that I could now apply this to our dynamic warm up, this would change our warm up to a dress rehearsal. And in the winter when we didn’t have space to run, we could now train for speed given the space we had.
Using Radcliffe’s concepts and drills we now train for speed by reinforcing sprint mechanics in our warm-up and then apply them in our workout using our Gopher Sled. We begin by using a sled with no load and making sure that our technique is solid. We focus on posture and push mechanics of the training.
Gopher Performance Sleds
The Gopher Performance Yukon 2.0 Push/Pull Sleds help us tremendously as the athletes have to really push to get the sleds going. The sled isn’t overloaded to the point where the kids look like they are pushing a broken-down car, but it provides enough resistance to make our athletes push hard. That is our intended result. The WHY.
With the help of Yukon 2.0 Push/Pull Sleds provided by Gopher Performance, we have taken this philosophy and found that the sleds offer a great way to align our girls with minimal resistance to practice this technique by pushing and marching.
Add Sprint Mechanics to Your Program!
Johnson is a graduate of Normandale Community College, Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota, playing football at both NCC and Augsburg. “RJ” teaches physical education at Wayzata High School and is the Strength and Conditioning Coordinator for Wayzata Public Schools, a position he began in 2000. Wayzata Athletics have captured 52 team state titles in histenure; Johnson works directly with the three-time state champion football program as Director of Operations and Player Development. He is a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist as well as a Registered Strength and Conditioning Specialist – both certifications with Distinction and is the Minnesota NSCA State Director. NSCA awards include Minnesota High School Strength and Conditioning Professional of the Year 2010; State Director of the Year 2013; Strength of America Award 2015; and 2017 National High School Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year. In 2017 he became a founding Board Member of the National High School Strength Coaches Association (NHSSCA); and serves as a Regional Director for the organization. A former volunteer firefighter, he also received an Award of Merit from the Minnesota Department of Health and Safety for participation in a lifesaving CPR/AED effort to revive a player that suffered sudden cardiac arrest while at practice. Johnson is a frequent clinician, speaker, author and his Wayzata Trojan Power program has been visited by over 50 other high school and small college programs. He also volunteered his time in the Rockford School District where he and his wife and four children reside by serving as the Rockford Area Youth Athletic Association President and Youth Football Director.