4 Steps to Explosive Change of Direction

Real agility is so much more than ladder drills, shuttle runs and cone drills. And although there are critical elements of agility that can be trained in each of these categories, relying on these drills as the only source of agility training leaves a huge gap in player development. Agility, at it’s most basic level, is fairly simple…can you effectively decelerate into a position that you can efficiently sprint out of in the appropriate direction. Sounds simple enough, yet we still see players on the field that don’t have the quickness to keep up with the speed of the game. In this post, I want to outline 4 easy steps to help improve a players ability to react quickly and separate explosively, both with and without the ball.

First, here’s a short video that highlights a few of these points from one of our coaches workshops…


The video above laid out 4 coachable aspects of agility:

  1. Foot Position (make half the turn on the inside leg)
  2. Balanced Foot Placement (wide and stable base)
  3. Body Lean (into the direction you want to run)
  4. Reposition the Feet (to get into your sprint)

Foot Position & Inside Leg Deceleration

The first area of focus will be foot position during deceleration from a sprint. The image below shows an athlete in this position. As she decelerates, she digs in on the inside leg (her right leg in Image 1 below) and tries to use her inside leg as the primary decelerator. This strong and stable position can be trained with hopping exercises and repetitive patterns as we showed in the videos above. If she can’t effectively start, and control her deceleration with the inside leg, she will most likely increase the deceleration demands on the outside leg (left leg in the images below) which can put this ankle, knee and hip at risk of injury.

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Wide & Stable Base

The next step is to get to a wide and stable base or balanced foot position (as shown in Image 2 above). If an athlete positions themselves too narrow, they may find that they have entered a position from which they can’t push out of with power. Wider feet with a focus on getting lower to the ground, results in a more stable position from which to control your deceleration and start the aggressive acceleration out of the stop.

Body Lean

Another key aspect is body lean… Notice in both Image 1 and Image 2 (as well as the Images below), the player is aggressively leaning in the direction she wishes to go. This aggressive lean, helps gravity pull her in the direction she wants to run. We sometimes see players that have trouble getting out of the change of direction (getting stuck in the cut), and they often have quite a bit of lateral torso sway or shoulder drift as they try and change direction. This is easily corrected by cueing them to throw their shoulders into the run.

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Reposition the Feet

The final aspect is to quickly reposition the inside leg (as seen in Image 3). This quick repositioning strategy, helps the athlete run out of the lean with an explosive down and backward drive. This is very similar to how you would perform a lateral sprint start. Which takes us right back to where we started when we said that, “Agility is fairly simple…can you effectively decelerate into a position that you can efficiently sprint out of in the appropriate direction.

If you are looking for more information on this topic, we cover it in detail in our Speed & Agility Foundations manual, and we connect this with soccer skill in 2 of the sessions of our Dribbling and Turning player focused program.

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