by Jason Riddell
MS, SCCC, CSCS, USAWDirector of Athlete Performance
I hear a lot of sport coaches, athletes and even some strength & conditioning coaches use the terms “agility” and “change of direction” (COD) interchangeably. They are not the same thing and training should always consist of drills specific to both.
The definition of Agility is “A rapid whole body movement with change of velocity on direction in response to a stimulus.” That means that for it to be classified as “agility” then a stimulus must be applied. A stimulus refers to any outside variable that must be attended to and reacted to. For example, an athlete must react to another athlete on the opposing team and make a split second decision as to that the appropriate action is depending on what they see.
Recent research shows some surprising results when athletes were tested for both Agility and Change of Direction. When athletes across all levels of experience were tested for COD, there wasn’t much distinction between their results. Yet, when those same athletes were tested for agility, high level athletes scores were significantly superior to that of lower level athletes. The graphic below illustrates that higher level athletes excel because they benefit from the cognitive, physical and technical aspects of agility training.
When you see a coach testing an athlete using drills like the 5-10-5, L-Drill or Illinois Drill, they are really testing COD, not agility. While these tests are useful, they don’t paint the whole picture. True agility tests require the use of a computer, light gates, projector and camera – which is not realistic for most situations. If coaches are looking to add agility drills to their repertoire, some examples of agility drills are Mirror Drills (Linear & Lateral), Arrow Drills and Competitive Tag games (The lead photo above is an example of a mirror drill).
The most important take away from this article is that it’s essential that athletes train for both agility and change of direction using a variety of training drills to continually challenge and elevate their ability to adapt and react to game-time situations. Next Level’s Sports Performance Training incorporates both change of direction and agility, as well as strength and conditioning into it’s programming for athletes ages 7-Collegiate. We offer training sessions year round, call us at 703-249-6588 or click the button below for a FREE athlete training session.
Young WB, Dawson B, Henry GJ. Agility and Change-of-Direction Speed are Independent Skills: Implications for Training for Agility in Invasion Sports. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 2015, 10(1). 159-169