The “Step and Cut” is an essential speed skill that you must master if you have any hope of leaving your opponents in the dust on the field.
The objective of the Step and Cut is to stop on a dime and accelerate in another direction. To efficiently execute this maneuver, you must be able to decelerate your body rapidly, but only as much as needed, so you’re moving as fast as possible in the new direction.
Problem is most athletes lack the strength and power required for the Step and Cut. You can test your ability by having a coach observe (or film) your change of direction technique during an agility drill, watching for an under-deceleration or over-deceleration.
The runner will either too few stutter or gather steps, and move too fast when they change direction. This creates an inevitable delay and slower movement. If this is the case, the runner should take a couple of extra-explosive stutter steps and move a bit slower. If this eliminates the delay, then you solved the problem.
For over-deceleration, the runner will take too many stutter steps or move too slow before attempting to turn the other direction. If this is the case, the runner should take fewer stutter steps and move faster before they turn. If this removes the delay then obviously the athlete was over-decelerating and you removed the error.
Ultimately, you have no exact way of knowing whether one or the other is occurring, so you experiment with both.
The goal for every athlete is to minimize deceleration as much as possible by taking the fewest amount of stutter or gather steps, but with no delay on the turn. You should be practicing and looking for “constant movement” in and out of turns as much as you can. You should feel like you maintain speed as you move from one direction to the other. The best movers do this very well.
On a final note, power and strength are very important in being able to prevent under-deceleration from occurring. Your muscles must be able to produce strength and power when deceleration, much like they do when they’re moving a barbell in the weight room. The difference is the resistance takes the form of the forces your muscles must handle during deceleration.
As long as you know how to plant and position your body, and they have spent some time practicing the drills, then faster motions can be tolerated and recommended. As you develop more powerful, you will be able to more quickly switch your more momentum and re-accelerate in the next direction.
Over-deceleration is usually more of an awareness issue than anything. If you tell yourself that you’re slowing down too much and, you will become aware and fix it immediately. Trying to minimize deceleration when attempting to turn in a new direction requires a tremendous amount of strength and power to be able to move against all of the resistance and momentum you created as you head in a new direction. Again, this all represents the synergy and influence each training skill has on the other.