We all see the Instagram videos, the Snapchat’s, and the commercials of athletes with incredible footwork doing ladder drills, weaving in and out with amazingly quick feet.
I’ll admit, the footwork these athletes showcase is incredible. They’re fast, agile and super impressive.
But are these drills beneficial for football?
Well, in my opinion, no.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that ladder drills don’t have their place.
They do. They can help develop some quickness which is important, but they are certainly not the end all be all for agility. So why spend so much time practicing those drills?
If your goal is to develop quickness and agility that will transfer to the football field then it’s time to start putting in some quality work!
Know The Demands Of The Sport
Football is a game of quick reaction and sudden change of direction.
If you are a running back you need to be able to avoid tackles, make sudden cuts and change direction.
If you are a linebacker you need to be able to drop back in coverage, run downhill, avoid blocks and make tackles.
A wide receiver needs to be able to run his route, change directions on a dime, make a quick catch then avoid tackles and get up field.
So why not train that way when our goal is agility?
At my facility, Tutela Training Systems, we like to incorporate drills where our athletes need to react and suddenly change direction.
For instance, we may have a receiver run a route, make a catch and when he turns around react to a defender or Swiss ball so he can develop the quick thinking and reaction time that he needs in a game.
Or have a linebacker shed a block and suddenly change direction as he “fills the hole” and reacts to a running back.
Obviously you don’t need an entire football team to do these drills. You can simulate other players with coaches, med balls, Swiss balls or even footballs and tennis balls.
Whatever makes them react and change direction.
In my opinion that is much more productive than working on your tap dancing skills in and out of a ladder.
I also think that the good ole’ fashion 4 corner drill is still beneficial as well.
Being able to accelerate and change direction on a dime is also necessary in football.
Set up four cones in a square, about 10-15 yards apart.
You can start by sprinting to the first cone, shuffling over to the next cone, back pedal to the third, then shuffle the other way back to the first cone.
Change it up and put your own twist on it. There are plenty of variations to that drill.
Speed, Agility and Quickness Drills For Football
Here are four examples of one of our athletes performing different versions of the 4 corner drill.
As you can see, you can add different movements at different times to give your athletes more variety. It’s important to have them change their direction quickly, as well as change their center of gravity.
You can have them start standing or on the ground, or have them drop to the ground and perform an exercise like the bear crawl as shown in one of the videos.
I hope you can see the difference between agility drills that have direct carryover to the game and the stuff that just looks pretty.
If you are a coach or an athlete getting ready for the season, spend your time on the shit that counts: getting strong, fast, mobile, and agile in a way that can be applied to your sport.
How many times do you tap your feet quickly through a ladder in a football game?
Do what counts and don’t concern yourself with looking cool in a video.
Focus on getting better.
If you want to throw in a few ladder drills when you’re done with your primary work for the day then by all means, do it.
Otherwise sprint, change direction, shuffle, back pedal and react for the bulk of your agility work.
Now get to work!