Basketball Speed and Agility Training

Basketball Speed and Agility Guide

Basketball Speed & Agility

Kills Defenders

As a I sat and watched the Washington Wizards play the Chicago Bulls one thing became glaringly obvious to me…speed kills, and John Wall and Derrick Rose both have it.  There were periods throughout the game that both players put their speed on display by blowing by their defenders for easy finishes at the rim and watching this, you just knew that both Wall and Rose each had an extra gear they could turn to in order to create space for themselves.  More importantly than the fact that they were both really quick, they each had basketball speed and agility that was more noticeable due to their ability to change speeds and directions effortlessly and efficiently with and without the basketball.  Having these skills only made them appear quicker than they already were and much harder to guard.  It is one thing to be fast when it comes to sprinting in a straight line but yet quite another to have the footwork, balance, and agility required to be quick in the starting and stopping, change of direction, game of angles that is basketball.


Speed May Not Translate To Basketball Effectiveness

As a long time basketball coach and trainer, one issue that I have consistently found with basketball players is that they may be a great athlete with good overall speed but they struggle translating that speed to the basketball court because of poor footwork, a lack of balance and stability, and poor skills at game speeds.  This problem persists not only for the aforementioned reasons but also because they struggle to find the time in their training to work on speed, agility, and skills due to their busy schedule.  Consequently, they ditch the speed and agility work in favor of skill development which may leave them more skilled but no quicker on the basketball court and it is the combination of both that will elevate your game to the next level.  Having one or the other does not have to be the case, and with a little bit of know how, players and coaches can solve this “lack of basketball speed” problem by developing basketball skill specific speed and agility in an efficient and timely manner in their workouts.


Three Components Of Basketball Speed And Agility

Speed and agility is a very important part of a player’s basketball training.   Speed training for basketball can be broken down into three components: starting speed, speed endurance, and agility.  Basketball is a game of constant stop and go movements.  For this reason, basketball players need to be able to start, stop, and restart quickly and effectively.  All of the stop and go movements not only require players to be quick off the start but also to be able to accelerate quickly into a full sprint.  Players must be able to maintain this speed during the latter stages of the game, which can be referred to as speed endurance.  Absolute speed is not a necessity.  Rarely do basketball players ever have to sprint at full speed over long distances.

Basketball is also a game of angles that requires players to stop and go and also change directions quickly.  This ability to rapidly change directions without the loss of speed, balance, or body control is known as agility.  Agility is vital to basketball because of the constant change of direction but also because of the regular change of movements that accompany these changes of direction.  Basketball players need to go from sprint, to slide, to sprint, to backpedal and any combination thereof. These movements are all done while changing directions thereby making agility equally as important as speed.


Basketball Speed And Agility Under Game Like Conditions

Adding speed and agility training to your basketball training program requires a number of variables that require a coach, trainer, and/or player to include covering multiple distances, direction changes, movement changes, and skills at game speed and in game situations in the majority of the drills used in their daily programming.  Doing so will ensure that players are developing basketball skills along with basketball specific speed and agility.  As eluded to earlier, basketball players rarely cover long distances during a game but rather differing distances at varying times (ie. short, long, medium, long, short).


Basketball Starting, Stopping and Turning

Furthermore, these distances that players cover are often covered in different movement patterns.  For example, it is very likely that a player will have to sprint 10 feet in a line, stop, pivot, and slide on varying angles, then sprint again in order to guard a player handling the ball in a full court situation.  Furthermore, a player with the basketball could also experience a similar situation where they may have to zig zag a defender for a portion of the court, sprint to beat them, stop to set up the offense and repeat.  Doing so effectively will require similar speed and agility skills to the person mentioned above moving without the ball but now they must include dribbling skills along with direction and speed changes.


Effective Basketball Speed Combined With Agility

I am sure that you have seen this problem present itself rather frequently where a player who is very fast and often wins the sprints in practice but then loses the basketball when asked to dribble it in multiple directions at game speed.  Or the player that shoots the ball really well when they are sitting in a catch and shoot position waiting for the ball to come to them but cannot seem to buy a shot when they are asked to make specific cuts, or come off screens at an angle and have to catch and shoot.  To combat these problems, it is important to include varying movement patterns at varying distances trained simultaneously with basketball skills in your basketball drills.  Fixing this requires a little creativity and thought when creating drills or in your drill selection.  More importantly, it requires the use of multiple skill drills that incorporate not only shooting and/or dribbling but also cutting, footwork, sprinting, sliding, passing, etc.  Incorporating multiple skills and movements, including speed and agility work, into your drills is the only way to improve your basketball skills along with your basketball specific speed and agility.  This makes the drills game-like, interesting, and fun for the player and will ensure improvement in all areas trained.  A great example of a multiple skill drill and one of our favorites at Elite Basketball Training is the T-Drill With Finishes.

As you can see in this drill, the players are working on multiple skills including their first step, dribbling, passing, defensive sliding, change of directions, change of movements, footwork, and finishing. That’s eight skills in one drill! Furthermore, the T-Drill is versatile enough that you can incorporate dribble moves, different footwork, different finishes, a pull up jumper, etc.  These are exactly the type of drills and the type of training that all basketball players need to increase their skills along with their basketball specific speed and agility.


Basketball Speed and Agility Focus Points

When training for basketball it is important to consider  a few important features that include starting speed, speed endurance, agility, and skill development.  Therefore basketball players need to train at distances that are game appropriate and at work to rest ratio that resembles the short breaks often taken in basketball.  During basketball games, players do not sprint for long distances nor do they have long periods of time to rest compared to their work capacity.  Breaks on dead ball situations, free throws, or time outs rarely last more than a minute.  The next item to consider when developing a basketball speed program is the specific changes of direction and movements that occur while playing the game.  It is imperative that you integrate sprints, slides, and backpedals at different angles and distances in order to model the game of basketball.  Finally, and arguably most importantly, skills need to be trained at the same time as speed and agility.  This requires some thought and creativity when it comes to drill development or selection.  However, doing so will make for a  much more efficient basketball training workout that will not only elevate your basketball skills, speed, and agility but also be fun, creative, and competitive and have you training like the pros.

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