No matter what sport you’re preparing to dominate, training multidirectional movements—straight ahead, backward, left, right and at 45-degree angles—is essential to becoming a force.
Here are agility drills for six sports from five different experts. Each drill will help make your moves as smooth as silk in your respective sport.
Baseball: Agility Wheel [click for diagram]
Who coaches it: Andy Dendas, Stanford University assistant strength and conditioning coach
• Set up eight cones in a circle, each five to seven yards apart; place a ninth cone in center
• Stand in center of circle at Cone 9
• On command, sprint to Cone 1; backpedal to start
• Sprint to Cone 2; sprint back to center
• Shuffle to Cone 3; shuffle back to center
• Sprint to Cone 4; sprint back to center
• Backpedal to Cone 5; sprint back to center
• Sprint to Cone 6; sprint back to center
• Shuffle to Cone 7; shuffle back to center
• Sprint to Cone 8; sprint through center
Adaptation: Change distance of cones; change skills performed in each leg of drill
Days per week: 2
Rest: 1-1.5 minutes
Dendas: “It builds leg endurance, and it has a big cognitive factor to it. The players have to know where they’re going and what they’re doing for each cone.”
Coaching points: Focus on quick first step, smooth transitions from different athletic movements and quick, clean direction changes
Softball: Star Drill [click for diagram]
Who coaches it: Ron McKeefery, University of South Florida head strength and conditioning coach
Always start at Cone 4 or 6, with your first shuffle being to Cone 5. From there, you react to whatever cone your partner points to or calls. Every pattern called should include three to five cones, with you always sprinting to and from the final cone. The following instruction is for a 4-1-2 pattern, which is illustrated in the diagram.
• Start at Cone 6
• Shuffle to Cone 5
• Shuffle to Cone 4
• Jog to Cone 5
• Shuffle to Cone 1
• Jog to Cone 5
• Sprint to Cone 2
• Sprint back to Cone 5
Rest: Base your rest on the number of cones in the pattern. “Early in the off-season, we use five cones per rep, then we rest five times longer than it takes to do the drill,” McKeefery says. “If we use four cones per rep, rest is four times longer.”
McKeefery: “Except for running the bases, most softball movements are relatively short and quick—within three to five yards. We use this drill because it works on quick change of direction, shuffling, short sprints, body control and awareness.”
Coaching points: Keep your butt down, chest up and chin up so you can watch the ball // Squeeze your shoulder blades together // Don’t let your knees rotate inside or outside your ankles; that’s a sign of knee instability and can lead to injury
Football: Pro Agility with Adaptations [click for diagram]
Who coaches it: Rod Cole, former Kansas State head strength and conditioning coach
• Set up three cones, each five yards apart
• Start at middle cone in two-point stance
• Sprint five yards right or left to outside cone
• Plant, touch line and sprint 10 yards in opposite direction to far cone
Regular Agility Shuttle: Sprint throughout the entire drill. Focus on quick change of direction and tremendous effort.
Shuffle Shuttle: Begin at middle cone (five-yard line) with hand down. Shuffle laterally to one side, touch line with hand. Immediately shuffle in opposite direction, touch far line with other hand. Finish by shuffling through middle cone.
Carioca Shuttle: Identical to Shuffle, but perform Crossover Carioca between hand touches. Focus on knee bend and keeping your weight on the balls of your feet.
Forward/Backpedal Shuttle: Begin at middle cone with hand down. Turn and run to first line; touch it with hand. Backpedal 10 yards to next line; touch it with hand. Sprint forward through middle cone. Make sure to keep a good forward body lean during the backpedal portion. Your shoulders should not rise when you change directions.
Reps: 8 to 10, with 4 or 5 heading right first, then 4 or 5 heading left first
Benefit: Mimics change of direction in a small space—a vital maneuver in football
Coaching points: Perform drills over bent knees while keeping your weight on the balls of your feet
Basketball: Four-Cone Reaction Drill [click for diagram]
Who coaches it: Alan Stein, Montrose Christian High School strength and conditioning coach
• Set up four different-colored cones at corners of lane; place one cone outside each elbow and one outside each box
• Start in middle of lane in defensive stance (X), with partner at top of key (O)
• Partner calls a color or shows a colored card
• Slide to proper cone; return to center as quickly as possible
Adaptations: Change the drill by performing sprints, backpedals or defensive slides between cones. For example, sprint to the two cones at top elbows and backpedal to the center. To the bottom two cones, use a defensive slide, like you would to cut off the baseline to take a charge, then sprint back to the center.
Sets/reps/rest: 3-4/4-5 cone touches/5-10 seconds between touches
Partner position: Partner can stand at top of key or walk around arc of three-point line. If partner moves, work your defensive principles, and rotate to see the ball and your man.
Cone positions: Set up the cones further on the wings or lower on the baseline to represent where offensive players might be.
Coaching points: Stay in a low defensive stance // Keep a good base; don’t cross your feet // Always keep your hands up and active
Soccer and Volleyball: Box Drill [click for diagram]
Who coaches it: Chip Harrison, Penn State University head strength and conditioning coach
• Set up four cones in a square
• Starting at Cone 1, sprint to Cone 2
• Shuffle laterally to Cone 3
• Drop step and backpedal to Cone 1
• Repeat in opposite direction, starting at Cone 4
• Complete 8-10 reps to each side
Differences between soccer and volleyball set-ups:
Size: “Since the soccer field is much larger than the volleyball court, there is more ground to cover and less chance of running into people. So, we use 10 to 15 yards between cones with the soccer team and 10 to 15 feet with the volleyball team.”
Movement: “When the volleyball players get to the backpedal portion of the drill, our volleyball coaches make them pivot their hips toward Cone 1 while keeping their heads toward Cone 3. The soccer players use a normal backpedal.”
Surface: “Soccer and volleyball are played on different surfaces, so of course we don’t work with the volleyball team on grass or with the soccer team on hardwood.”
Rest: “Soccer has a greater endurance component, because the activity is more continuous. Volleyball is discrete, with points or side-outs causing breaks in play every few seconds. Since being tired cardiovascularly doesn’t influence their game as much as soccer players, volleyball players get a slightly longer rest time. For soccer, we shorten the rest interval so the players have to function in a fatigued state. To create these rests, we place maybe two or three soccer players per station and four or five volleyball players per station. No player can go until the previous player completes the drill.”