There are two general categories of speed: linear speed and lateral speed. Lateral speed is oftentimes simplified as agility and quickness. A popular term for this is “change of direction” (COD). The ability to start, stop and start again at high speed is a critical factor in an athlete’s ability to put her in the best position possible to be successful. Here are 5 key points to remember for efficient change of direction:
1. Load and explode!
You load by getting low in the hips. If you don’t get low, the change of direction will be slow because you won’t have any leverage on your body weight. You can’t be high changing direction. Being too high will lead to balance issues and wasted time. After loading, coming out of it should be viewed as an explosion, much like being shot out of a cannon. Unload with power!
2. Transition your weight properly.
When shifting your weight, be sure to keep the hips between the knees and not let your weight, your center of gravity specifically; get away from the stability of your foundation. Don’t get top heavy and don’t let your hips get outside of your knees. Always squat when you stop and take your upper body and lower body down together.
3. Get the head around.
Wherever the head goes, the body will follow. Don’t forget: everything is connected. The eyes are an important part of this. Vision is important coming out of the turns, because it sets your balance. As you drive with your legs, use your eyes to find your target. If you keep your eyes down too close in front of you, you may stumble.
4. Get the hips around.
In a training scenario, ideally, you turn as you stop so that your hips are facing the direction you want to be going next. In a competition scenario, you simply need to get them around as soon as possible. Sometimes this must come after saving a ball. This is where strength training to get the hips more stable helps with speed.
Don’t lose the arms in all of this. Remember to keep them in a good position, to pump them and to keep them in. Be in control of your limbs. Don’t swing your arms recklessly when turning. If you aren’t controlling them and using them correctly, they are slowing you down.
Work on these basics and your lateral speed will improve.