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Improving Player Agility

Jason Robinson side steps in attack while playing for the Help for Heroes side

Photo: Getty Images

Agility can be defined as the ability to change direction with minimum loss of pace (in rugby, forward velocity). However, this does not take into consideration any technical or tactical element. The Australian sports scientists Sheppard and Young define agility as “a rapid, whole body, change of direction or speed in response to a sport-specific stimulus”. 

Some players appear to possess exceptional agility. They can change direction and beat an opposing player on a sixpence, or take the ball to the line and “stand defenders up” by wrong-footing them. It is not known to what extent this ability is determined by physically trainable, cognitively learned or innate factors. Many of the competencies required for speed training also hold for agility training, particularly with regard to good acceleration.  

Agility Training

A recent literature review of agility articles showed that speed and agility are distinct physical qualities. Speed training does not appear to enhance change of direction speed (CODS), and CODS training does not appear to enhance speed. Therefore, training for change-of-direction speed and agility must involve highly specific methods that recognise the particular demands of the sport (Baker, 1999a; Buttifant et al., 1999; Tsitskarsis et al., 2003; Young et al.,1996).

A player’s agility will be improved by doing a mixture of programmed agility drills (e.g. ladders, cones etc) and reactive agility through game-specific decision-making drills and games. As with speed and endurance, agility is negatively affected by poor body composition.

The following dowloadable document provides rugby specific training drills designed to improve a player's agility (PDF 100kB).

 

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