Big Red Speed

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Sitting on the couch or lounging around the pool this off-season won't make you a faster lacrosse player. The athletes who take advantage of the layoff to tune their motors will be running by you or taking your roster spot when the season rolls around. To find out how to improve your speed in the off months, we hit up Cornell's strength and conditioning coach, Tom Howley, whose Big Red squad sped to their fifth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance this past season.

STACK: Describe your speed program.
Howley: Four to five months before the start of the season is when most of our speed training takes place. We perform it in phases where each phase includes the fundamentals of the previous [one]. We'll do some sort of speed and agility work three days a week.

STACK: What are the progressions of your speed training plan?

Howley: We start [the players] off on a pretty simple progression [to teach] them speed mechanics, basically how to run properly. From there, we work on acceleration mechanics, which is teaching the first three steps—how fast they can accelerate, forward, backward and laterally. The next progression is acceleration, then putting on the brakes, basically how fast they can stop.

STACK: Why are these speed components important to lacrosse?
Howley: Lacrosse is a combination of change of direction and straight-ahead speed. Because of the agility component involved in the sport, we integrate both into the workout equally.

STACK: What do you look for when your athletes are working on acceleration?
Howley: The biggest mistake is taking false steps. I teach them to get in a balanced position in a good stance so their first step is a positive one. I don't want to see a lateral or backward step. It's also important to work on stride frequency. You need to work on first step quickness and getting maximum push, which can be improved through repetition and drills.

STACK: What are you looking for when working on deceleration?

Howley: The biggest thing is lowering your center of gravity and immediately finding a balance point. I don't want to see athletes leaning or tipping over. They should decrease their stride length, chop their feet and lower their center of gravity as quickly as possible.

STACK: What kinds of drills should athletes perform?
Howley: Any cone, agility ladder, reaction and change of direction drill will work. It's important that the drills incorporate acceleration, deceleration and change of direction, because that's the way the game is played.

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