Agility Drills with Penn State Football and the Toronto Blue Jays

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By Chad Zimmerman

Toronto Blue Jays strength coach Donovan Santas incorporates agility work up to three days a week during spring training. He says, "I'm a firm believer in variety, so we change things up to keep them interesting."

Combining zigzag drills with box drills, Santas can put the Jays through many different movement patterns. "The zigzag drills primarily work the ability to cut at 45-degree angles. And the distances are a bit longer than box drills, so the players can get to slightly faster speeds," he says.

"Box drills work reaction, which is great for infielders," Santas continues. "When I use the point visual cue, it's almost like they're reacting to a ball off a bat. The verbal color cue works the players' thought processes. They have to communicate information from their brains to their bodies to respond and react as fast as possible."

He uses the following drills to improve the Blue Jays' agility and speed—not conditioning. Santas advises taking adequate rest between patterns to fully recover.

Zigzag

• Set up seven cones in zigzag pattern (see diagram)
• Perform 2 sets of 8 to 10 of the following patterns
• Sprint for all
• Sprint to backpedal
• Sprint to shuffle
• Shuffle for all
• Shuffle facing opposite direction
• Shuffle to backpedal
• Sprint to carioca
• Carioca for all
• Shuffle to carioca
• Backpedal to carioca
• Rest 60-90 seconds between patterns

Box

• Set up four different color cones in square pattern (see diagram)
• Stand in middle of box
• Sprint or shuffle to cone of certain color upon partner's cue
• Sprint or shuffle back to start
• Perform 4-6 sets, reacting to verbal commands and hand points
• Rest 60-90 seconds

"When pro scouts test our athletes for the NFL, they want to see the ability to accelerate in a 40," says Jeremy Scott, strength coach for Penn State Football. "But they also want to see the ability to accelerate, decelerate, change direction and accelerate again. And to do that efficiently and minimize lost speed, you need good body control and balance."

Scott uses X, Triangle and Line Cone Drills to develop these skills in his athletes. The X Drill involves the most direction changes, challenging the athlete's concentration more than Triangle and Line Drills. The Triangle Drill requires only three turns, so it's simpler and faster paced. "Because it's a quicker drill, it's more reactive and a nice changeup during a workout,"Scott says. The Line Drill works the ability to decelerate, change direction and accelerate quickly again, which is especially difficult during the 10-yard portion where you reach top speed.

Scott recommends performing each drill at half to three-quarter speed the first week. "Pick up the speed only after you learn each drill," he says. "You might be able to move fast the first time you try a drill, but speed doesn't matter if you're not doing it right. With everything we do, it's quality that matters, not quantity."

The Penn State football team works on agility twice a week in the off-season. During the first few weeks, agility drills always precede conditioning drills in a training session. "After that, we perform agility drills first once a week. When we're fresh, we can really work on speed of movement," Scott says. "On the second day, we do conditioning drills first and agility drills second, when everyone is tired. This builds mental toughness and the ability to concentrate when you're tired, which is really important in football. You get tired during a game, but still need to do things right."

Putting forth 100 percent effort, even when you perform agility drills after conditioning, is crucial. The goal is always to move as efficiently and as fast as possible.

X

• Set up five cones in an X pattern (see diagram)
• Move through cones as indicated on diagram
• Perform two sets of the following patterns
• Backpedal, sprint, backpedal, sprint, backpedal, sprint
• Shuffle all
• Sprint all
• Backpedal, shuffle, backpedal, shuffle, backpedal, shuffle
• Rest 60 seconds between patterns and sets

Triangle

• Set up three cones in a right triangle (see diagram)
• Move around cones: twice from the right, twice from the left
• Perform the following movements
• Backpedal, sprint, backpedal
• Shuffle, sprint, backpedal
• Sprint, backpedal, sprint
• Sprint, backpedal, shuffle
• Rest 60 seconds between patterns

Lines

• Set up three cones five yards apart
• Move from Cone 1 to Cone 2 and back
• Move from Cone 1 to Cone 3 and back
• Move from Cone 1 to Cone 2 and back
• Perform the above pattern for 1 set of each the following movements
• Backpedal, sprint, backpedal, sprint, backpedal, sprint
• Shuffle all
• Carioca all
• Sprint all
• Rest 60 seconds between patterns


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock