Definition: Learning, thinking or understanding with speed and dexterity; one’s reaction time and
the initiation of movement. Another definition is “speed in response to a stimulus”.
Training for speed, agility, and quickness is different than most other training. The athlete MUST allow for sufficient rest between each iteration to allow for cardiorespiratory recovery. This affords the athlete the ability to perform at max effort during each iteration, which is optimal.
Quickness differs from agility in that it is in response to an unknown stimulus.
When discussing quickness, we need to address reaction ability. The quicker you react to the
stimulus, the more likely you are to make the play, stop the opponent, and get open to receive the
pass, etc. The stimulus itself can present itself in a variety of ways: visual, audible, and/or tactile.
One’s reaction time will vary depending on the stimulus.
• Tactile/Kinesthetic - fastest at 120 to 140 milliseconds.
• Audible - 140 to 160 milliseconds
• Visual - 180 to 200 milliseconds
While the numbers above do not seem impressive, experience shows us that wins and losses can
come down to a matter of inches or milliseconds. If you were able to react just a bit quicker to
block that game-winning shot, or if you could have gotten to the ball just a split-second earlier you could have deflected it away from the receiver. These split-second moments often determine
the outcome of a game.
There is some question whether reaction time can even be improved, citing genetics and if this is
predetermined. Recent research points towards improving visual reaction. Proper training and experience may significantly improve reaction time.
Since the body must react to each type of stimulus in their respective sport, they must all be addressed in training. Incorporating variations in the drills and movements will ensure that all stimuli are utilized and the athlete is implementing a complete training approach.
With these various stimuli come greater levels of complexity. When designing your programs for
athletes, be sure to progress them appropriately. Agility drills that are pre-set, meaning the athlete knows where he or she is going to run, are recommended for beginners and youth. The focus on these athletes should be form and technique. Build a solid foundation of proper movement
patterns before adding layers of difficulty. Once proper movement patterns are established an agility is developed, advancement to undetermined quickness drills is recommended.
This touches on the importance of specificity. There are no cookie-cutter or one-size-fits-all programs.
Be sure to adjust and modify your drills and programs to fit the specific needs of your athletes.
An example would be performing agility ladder drills with an athlete. Make sure he is getting in
and out of the boxes efficiently and on the balls of his feet before you add visual or audible stimuli
into the drill.
Jay Dawes PhD, CSCS*D, NSCA-CPT*D, FNSCA, has an article showing some Advanced Agility and Quickness Drills on the National Strength and Conditioning Association website.