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Bryan Glover is the director of performance at Valor Christian — a school that has won multiple state championships in numerous sports and thoroughly dominated on the football field for almost a decade — and says there are exercises in the weight room and on the playing surface to improve the speed of athletes.
“The tool box of drills is crazy,” he said. “Genetics helps us with it, but it is like anything else, the more time and effort and work you put into it during the season get results.
“There are a few variables that go into it, but improving speed and speed efficiency is a possibility and there is a lot of research to back it up.
“Sprinting is the key exercise. In order to get faster you have to do fast things. Depending of the sport, change of direction is a key. You want to be able to accelerate and decelerate quickly in order to change direction, and those drills have to be incorporated as well."
Stack Fitness — a website that says it "exists to inspire and empower athletes of all ages " — lists several exercises that can help improve speed. They include some common power moves in the weight room — the squat, clean and deadlift — and an exercise familiar to track athletes, the broad jump. Find more at www.stack.com.
— Jim Benton
Speed never takes a day off, goes the adage.
“Speed is any sport is very, very important because it's hard to teach speed,” Cherry Creek soccer coach Chelo Curi said.
The ability to move fast is important in almost all athletic endeavors — and it's not always just foot speed.
In fall high school sports, explosiveness and quickness are at least as important.
“Speed is important but not the most critical thing,” Valor Christian football coach Rod Sherman said. “I always say explosiveness is the most critical (attribute) for an athlete. At the end of the day, it's great to have some kids that run 4.5 (seconds) in the 40-yard dash, but you don't have that many opportunities for a 4.5 40 to come out in the game of football. It's much more important to be explosive, make a play in a short space.”
Scott Dowis, volleyball coach at Castle View, agrees with Sherman.
“Speed and quickness are important, but the most important physical skill is explosiveness,” Dowis said. “The volleyball court is pretty small when there are six players on it in the indoor game. Most of the movement either to the ball defensively and blocking or attacking is quick explosive movements.”
Arapahoe golf coach Harry Buckner said hand speed makes a big difference on the links.
“Many golfers can't run fast but hand speed and club speed can be developed,” he said. “Distance in golf is related to hand speed.”
In softball, Alameda set a single season record in 2017 with 180 stolen bases, and coach Tom Dillingham echoed the motto about speed being a constant factor.
“Speed is important on both offense and defense,” he said. “Speed, explosiveness and timing is the key to stealing bases.”
Foot speed, quickness and explosiveness can be enhanced — which goes against another age-old adage that speed can't be improved, that one is born with it.
Allison Skufca, who works for Landow Performance in Centennial, aids athletes of all ages to advance their speed.
“That's what we do,” she said. “We focus more on teaching mechanics, the mechanics of different running stages. You have acceleration and top-end speed. Then, all of our weight room stuff like our lifting gets them stronger and more explosive, which helps with that.
“It really takes two months for an athlete to really start to notice the difference. They will notice the little stuff as they adapt to the training, but a good eight to 12 weeks is when they will really start to notice.”
High school coaches, too, have their own ways of enriching speed.
“Quick, short running spurts will improve it because it adds to the burst and the first three steps," Curi said.
For many athletes, speed and explosiveness training are done both at and outside of school.
“We are lucky at Castle View to have a great strength (program) staffed by Patrick McHenry,” Dowis said. “He and his staff work our players three days a week during the summer to get them stronger and more explosive. We also have players who work with other SAQ (strength, agility, quickness) coaches throughout the year through their clubs or independently.”
To Sherman, the most important period for improving explosiveness is the off-season.
“Once you can get into season, you can improve a little bit but it's what you do out of season,” Sherman said. “Using the weight room to build the base of explosiveness and you can use the field to train and to funnel that into on field explosiveness.”
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