Performing acceleration drills from specific starting conditions allows evaluation of the athlete’s technique for sport-specific situations. In team sports, practicing starts from the relevant start position, in addition to normal skills training, even when athletes may already perform this action in conjunction with skill training, focuses attention on technique and execution. The quality of the athlete’s acceleration is affected by the quality of the preceding movement; therefore, a total speed program should address all elements of the athlete’s movement. As noted by Gambetta (1996), we must supplement sport training with relevant work on the fundamentals (such as running techniques) in order to advance the athleticism of athletes.
Lateral Shuffle to Forward Sprint
Aim To develop the ability to transition from lateral movement to a forward sprint, a movement required in many sports, particularly American football, rugby, Australian rules football, and similar sports.
Action The athlete shuffles laterally for 5 to 10 meters and then sprint forward for 10 to 20 meters (photos a and b). Athletes maintain an athletic position while shuffling, with feet facing forward and arms held relaxed in the position of choice for the given sport. Athletes can initiate the forward sprint at a predetermined location or when they have developed effective technique. Athletes can also initiate the forward sprint in reaction to a stimulus.
Walk-and-Jog Start to Sprint-Out
Aim To develop the ability to accelerate from a linear rolling start.
Action Set up two cones about 10 to 20 meters apart. The athlete starts at the first cone and begins walking, eases into a jog, and then shifts to a sprint before reaching the other cone. The athlete focuses on the changes in mechanics associated with changing pace. (Instead of using cones, the coach could cue the transition with relevant commands.)
Ins and Outs
Aim To develop the ability to relax at speed.
Action The athlete accelerates maximally over 20 meters and then maintains that pace for 20 meters, focusing on relaxing rather than on driving. At 40 meters the athlete accelerates again, trying to reach near top speed as soon as possible after the 40-meter mark and maintains that pace to the 60 meter mark. Finally, the athlete reduces intensity and floats for 10 to 20 meters more, keeping the stride cadence high while focusing on relaxation. The second acceleration gives athletes the opportunity to focus on acceleration mechanics from a relatively fast lead-in speed, improving their transition from a fast run to sprinting and teaching rhythm. The distances of each phase can vary depending on the requirements of the sport and the athlete.