When training kids, you'll quickly learn that the session needs to be upbeat and fun if you want to keep them engaged.
Kids love to be challenged through training games and scenarios that force them to compete against and work alongside one another. When it comes to speed and movement training, diving deep into overly complicated technical mechanics and drills may not be the most effective approach. An alternative is to create an environment where the technical drill is actually being applied in a well structured, real world scenario. These scenarios can be presented as games. You are killing two birds with one stone with this type of training. The technical theme of the training session is being achieved in probably a much less rehearsed and fluid manner, and the kids are having a blast doing it.
Incorporating games into one's training model can lead to a huge increase in full-speed, real world application that cannot be replicated, other then in sport itself. Games create a type of controlled chaos that is an amazing teaching tool provided the game has some sort of structure and method for an individual to know if they are succeeding at the objective or not. In my experience, games will excite the kids and encourage them to work harder alongside their peers. It is also a great buy-in point and will get the kids looking forward to their next session. This will ultimately lead to a better overall session which will lead to better overall results.
Below are some of my favorite speed and movement games for youth athletes.
Cat and Mouse
Tag-style games are an awesome way for young athletes to experience vigorous movement. Cat and Mouse is great for first step acceleration and to encourage kids to discover their true top speed. Much like tag, one athlete will be the "cat," and one will be the "mouse." The cat starts 2-5 yards back from the mouse. The drill can either start on a coach's "go" call or the mouse's first movement. The mouse runs and tries to avoid being caught by the cat while the cat tries to tag the mouse. This game can be varied by having the athletes begin in various positions, such as lying on their belly or starting on one knee. As in any game that involves tagging, coaches should instruct athletes not to push a fellow athlete while making a tag, lest they cause injury.
Pretty self-explanatory, but one athlete will be "it" and have to go and tag another athlete. The only stipulation is that the athletes are only allowed to be moving in a lateral shuffle. If an athlete breaks the rule, then they are usually disqualified and forced to start the next round as "it".
Sharks & Minnows (Lateral Focused)
This game is great for lateral focused days. You can have a shark or two line up on a line. If you have yard markers in your facility, put them about 5 yards apart. The sharks may only move laterally along their line and cannot leave their line, while the minnows can move however they would like to try to avoid being caught by the sharks. Last person standing wins.
Rock, Paper Scissors
— Micah J Kurtz (@KurtzM3) July 18, 2018
This game, as utilized by coach Micah Kurtz above, is great for reaction and getting your athletes to process information quickly. Two athletes will line up across from one another to go through a nerve-wrenching game of rock, paper, scissors. The athlete to lose the game must then sprint to try to get to a certain point before getting tagged by the winner.
Change of Direction on Command
Performing change of direction drills are great, and basic change of direction drills where an athlete has knowledge of which way they are required to move prior to the drill should be introduced before performing change of direction drills where they're reacting on the fly. You can perform these drills from a lateral shuffle, back pedal, forward sprint, lateral run, etc., and have the athletes change direction on a certain cue, whether by cone color, direction of angle, etc. Have fun with it and challenge your athletes in an effective manner.
A great ice breaker and test of listening and reaction. Two athletes will begin facing each other with a cone in between the two of them. The coach will shout out body parts such as HIPS, FEET, KNEES, EYES, CHIN, etc. When the coach yells CONE, or any cue you would like, the athletes must try to grab the cone before their opponent.
These games are just to name a few. There are endless possibilities to games and variations, and rule changes you can make to give it a fresh spin. Make the game fit your facility, kids and the training focus of the day. Another thing you can do occasionally is even let the kids dictate a rule or two; you may be pleasantly surprised to the direction it gets taken, to a certain extent of course!
Incorporating games to your program is a fantastic finishing application for any speed session. Just make sure that the game has purpose and is done in a safe effective way. The kids will love the fun and engaging environment the game creates and you will love the results.
Photo Credit: SerrNovik/iStock
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