Speed & Agility Training for the Female Athlete: More Harm than Good??

Speed & Agility Training and the Teenage Female Athlete: More Harm than Good?

Emily R Pappas, M.S.


In today’s world of high school sports, many athletes are essentially “in season” year-round. For better or worse, we have developed to a point where many top high school athletes are engaging in speed training, agility training, special camps, and more for most of the calendar year. Those who are hoping to perform at the highest levels are often looking for new or better ways to train. But coaches are doing their athletes a disservice if they are not carefully evaluating the individual athlete’s strength before looking into ways to build speed.

Strength must be the FOUNDATION of speed training

The bottom line is that without developing a foundation of strength, speed and agility drills can do more HARM than good. Why? The ground reactive forces athletes experience are very taxing. If the athlete is not strong enough to absorb these forces at the muscular level, those forces move to the tendons, ligaments, and bones—none of which are properly equipped to handle them. What happens? Injuries. Setbacks. Frustration.

Stronger muscles can absorb greater forces; in doing so, those muscles protect the ligaments, tendons, and bones. Additionally, stronger athletes can better control those muscles and direct where in the body those forces are absorbed.

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Agility Drills: Friend or Foe?

Today’s teenage athlete is spending more time than ever competing in scrimmages and games. This means a great deal of time is already invested in sprinting, jumping, and changing direction. So the question is, “do we really need to add agility ladders and skipping drills to training time, when so much time is already being spent on these types of motion? The obvious answer seems to be “NO WAY,” but it’s not quite so cut and dry. While there is a time and place for these types of drills, without a proper foundation in strength training, these drills are not only ineffective, but dangerous.

When Agility Drills Help

Athletes with a solid foundation in strength as well as proper jumping and landing mechanics can absolutely benefit from additional agility training. Shorter agility ladders and skipping drills can provide another level of training to improve reaction time and overall performance.

When Agility Drills Hurt

As mentioned above, without proper strength training, agility drills are only going to put unnecessary—and harmful—strain on the ligaments, tendons, and bones, which will only lead to injuries and setbacks. The coach’s responsibility to the athlete is to ensure the strength is there first, and then add the speed and agility components to complement that athlete’s training program.