Agility is key in soccer. The best players are often quick on their feet, and are able to change direction SUPER quick. But how do we improve it? Read on to find out.
Agility is defined as the cognitive and muscular ability to change direction in response to a stimulus.
Huh?!? Let’s break it down.
Agility in soccer can be broken down into three main components: strength, technique, and decision making. If you can improve any of those components, you can improve your agility.
Getting stronger isn’t what most soccer players think of when they want to improve their agility. But know this: being agile requires changing direction. Changing direction requires producing force. What produces force? Muscles! By improving your leg strength and power, you are able to produce more force, therefore change direction faster.
The best way to use the force generated by your muscles when changing direction is to use it efficiently. Changing direction efficiently is a skill that often needs to be coached in order to be improved. Not only do you need good mechanics and technique when changing direction, but also when accelerating and decelerating as well. A strength and conditioning coach can teach skills such as foot placement, hip movement, and arm drive- these can be improved and modified to best suit each athlete.
Improving Decision Making
The final piece of the agility puzzle is having the cognitive ability to choose where to go with your change in direction. Reactive agility drills are key to improving this! However, of all the pieces of the agility puzzle, this would be the last thing I would train. Mostly because, the best way to improve your decision making is to expose yourself to these scenarios as much as possible. The reality is, every practice session and game has countless scenarios that require you to do this. Unlike strength training or working on technique, you will likely encounter this multiple times per week.
What About Agility Ladders?
Quite honestly, most drills done with agility ladders do not improve the raw components of agility (strength, technique, and decision making). In most cases, I recommend that they not be used for agility training.
Summary: To improve your agility, increase your strength, improve your mechanics, and work on your decision making.