One question that sparks discussion amongst coaches and parents is how do they make their athletes faster? The conversation usually turns to whether they can be made faster or is someone just born fast or slow. Yes, a genetic predisposition toward speed is present in some athletes and is something to be nurtured, but at the end of the day it’s about maximizing genetic potential regardless of the natural ability.
With that said, every athlete can improve his/her speed through a blend of internal and external factors. Teaching kids proper technique and reinforcing those techniques through practice prepares them to be quicker to the ball and higher on the jump.
Improving speed is about applying power and technique. Power is the product of strength and speed. As science sophisticates our techniques for speed training, more athletes are benefiting from that increase of information. Internally, it is the natural growth and maturation process of a young person. From there, training stimuli imprinted through repetition help nurture the genetics. Genetics determine nerve impulse rates, muscle fiber types and combinations of muscular firing patterns – essentially: overall athleticism. Therefore, speed training should influence all of those factors as much as possible.
Remember, everything is connected.
Externally, speed training techniques are important because of the multitude of stressors the body experiences. Simply running as fast as you can as much as you can is counterproductive. Technical or developmental deficiencies repeated at high rates may cause imbalances in the body and lead to injury or other setbacks. Avoiding regression is key to any progression, especially with athletic development.
Part of making a person faster is building on a progression of training. If you are developing a youth athlete, technique is the first and only thing you should be concerned with. Their bodies are focused more on growing than competing, so don’t worry about setting land-speed records prior to puberty. Even after puberty, the fundamentals remain crucial. Your focus should be for the athletes to be as fundamentally sound as possible when they have reached proper maturity. Then they will be ready for even further physical development.
To a degree, this same concept can be applied to athletes that are getting a late start or have never been exposed to proper training techniques. When you take a sprinter with natural ability but has terrible technique, there is a great opportunity to improve speed immediately. Putting the body in correct posture, you are able to recruit the necessary muscle fibers to develop the aforementioned external factors.
Speed can be taught and you can never have too much speed!