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Clemson women’s soccer knows about speed. Besides playing a rugged ACC schedule year in and year out, they’ve made an appearance in six consecutive NCAA Tournaments. With the Tiger’s ability in mind, we hit up the team’s strength and conditioning coach, David Abernethy, with a few questions about working multidirectional speed.
STACK: How important is multidirectional speed in soccer?
David Abernethy: Soccer is all about performing powerful, explosive bouts over and over for 90 minutes. An athlete must be able to change direction while minimizing speed loss. Defense, especially, is multidirectional; so being able to settle down in your hips and mimic the offensive player’s speed while moving backwards, forwards and side-to-side is crucial.
How do you improve this?
DA: We start by teaching basic and proper speed mechanics—focusing on knee lift, arm drive and body control. When we teach the basics of linear speed, we focus on stride length and frequency, knee bend, pressing the outside foot and minimizing excess or negative movements that affect moving efficiently at high speeds. We also do something we call “coming to balance,” which teaches the players to stop without losing body control and the ability to reaccelerate.
When do you train multidirectional speed?
DA: All of our multidirectional training is done in the off-season on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We want the players to use in practice what they work on during those two days, so their skills and performance transfer directly to the game.
Can you explain some drills you use to work this type of speed?
DA: We do a four-corner drill to teach the players to run straight ahead and change direction at full speed. We perform some plyometrics—basic vertical jumps to teach controlled landings with knees bent, chest out and butt back, while keeping their knees, toes and hips aligned. We also use a speed ladder to teach foot fire, knee bend and body control.
Photo: orangeandwhite.com/Mark Crammer