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The Purpose of Backwards

How many times have you taught a skill and then evaluated your own coaching? Maybe you evaluated your coaching based off the performances of the athletes. The athletes may have struggled and you couldn’t figure out why. I do this all the time. If I have a session that didn’t go over the way I would have liked, so I go over my coaching for the class.

One area we all have to be on our game is knowing the final result we wish to reach. Have you ever put together a workout, looked at it, and said, “What the heck is my final outcome?” All I have is a bunch of exercises or drills with no real means to an end. I have been there many times. That is why I look over my workouts before and after a class.

There are certain skills which lend themselves to being lumped into “just another drill” category. One of them is performing backward or retreating skills. The skill might be speed backpedals, positional backpedals, shuffling backward or crossovers backwards. There are also times when combining these skills are important. If backwards skill work isn’t combined with a tactical motivation for doing the skill it becomes harder to coach it well. What I mean by this is if I simply tell my athletes to backpedal using short quick steps in a lower squatted position, then they will be able to perform the skill. But if it is a volleyball player, softball player, or soccer player, then they might not have a connection with the skill. If I teach this drill to these same athletes and I tell them I am trying to develop their leg power, body awareness and foot speed, then it will make more sense and they will be more “in tune” to the skill. If I teach this to a cornerback in football and explain the situation as if he is trying to keep slight separation for 5-7 yards and break to a cone 90 degrees it now has tactical carryover.

I believe most skills are great for all athletes regardless of the sport. I believe this is more important with young developing athletes more so than older highly specific athletes. The younger developing athlete will benefit from the new movement pattern being ingrained in his or her nervous system. The movement pattern will be available for them when they need it in sport. The older more experienced sport specific athlete can benefit from a different skill patterns in terms of cross-training. It keeps their body resilient fresh, not stale and predictable.

The most important message here is it is extremely important to understand why backwards training is important. Don’t just say, ‘I think today I will put backwards training in my program” without having a reason. With my youngest athletes I will include any kind of training I believe will be beneficial to them. This is simple because they are soaking up everything I throw at them. However, when I need speed as a result or specific training as a result, I am more aware of why I will coach a backward speed skill, or any other skill for that matter.

Put some thought in each workout and your coaching will reflect it.

Train Smart,
Lee Taft

P.S. – Ground Breaking 2 has an entire section on why and how to coach retreating skills, along with all the other multi-directional speed skills. Learn more by clicking HERE.

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