(Authors note: until last year I was one of those coaches)
In our pursuit of speed we seem to run into a few problems:
Problem 1- As strength coaches we often want to develop speed without actually sprinting. As you evaluate your speed improvement strategy ask yourself these three questions.
Do my athletes consistently run fast in training?
Do they run fast twice every week, year round?
How do I know they are running fast?
The third question is the key. If you don't time your athletes, you don't know if they are running fast. You may think they are running fast, but, are they?
When athletes lift it is easy to look at weight on the bar and make a very simple judgement. With untimed “speed” work, it is not quite so easy.
It goes back to the old Peter Drucker quote “ what gets measured get managed”
This leads us to problem 2
Problem 2- Strength coaches say they want to develop speed but, they rarely test speed and probably don't really train it? Doing speed drills is not speed training, it's warm-up. Working on mechanics is not speed training, it's warm-up. Sprinting is speed training. You can't simply test speed twice a year and have it be a simple pass/ fail proposition.
Most coaches view timed sprints as a test, a test that is done perhaps 2 or 3 times per year. Coaches need to reorient their lens to see sprinting not as a test but, as a training tool that needs to be used twice a week. In order to use the tool properly, you need to time your athletes!
So, if someone tells me that they want to get faster the first thing we need to know is how fast they are now. And remember, it's not how fast they think they are. We need good, solid, valid and reliable data
Problem three might be biggest impediment to speed development
Problem 3- For years, (possibly decades) strength coaches have deluded themselves into believing that you develop speed in the weightroom. It's amazing that we can run a primarily vertical weightroom program and expect significant horizontal changes.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge weightroom person but, I think as strength coaches we have overvalued strength in the weightroom as a tool to develop speed. We still need to lift for “armor building”, injury prevention and a host of other reasons but, I'm no longer sure how much effect conventional weightroom strength has on speed past the beginner/ intermediate level.
In fact, if strength training developed speed the way many strength coaches would like to believe it does, we would have lots of powerlifters running track and winning titles.
The key is to try to reverse your thought process. You need to view sprinting as a powerful training tool that can also be used as a test. If you sprint for time 2-3 times a year, you aren't using the tool you are just performing the test.
Last year Coach Tony Holler caused me to make the single biggest change in our programming in decades. Tony's Record, Rank, Publish article made me re-think what we were doing for speed development. And, when I say re-think, we are talking about a major change in thought process and a major change in our program.
I, much like so many coaches, thought we ( at MBSC) were doing a pretty good job with our speed training. We lifted, we did our plyos, and we “ran” sprints.
However, we were making a few critical mistakes.
In Part 2, I will go over a few mistakes.