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Two athletes with the same physical potential: same power, same strength, same absolute speed can score very, very differently in agility tests. Agility is a skill like swinging a golf club. I can have better balance, leg stength, hip and thoracic mobility than you, but if I don't know how to swing a golf club and you do, we both know who'll hit the ball longer and straighter.

With that said, using agility drills and equipment are going to improve performance - in those drills. You don't have to teach a thing. Sticking to the golf analogy, there's a good chance that I'll get better with time strictly due to practice. The obvious point is just because I got better at golf doesn't mean I'm swinging correctly or more importantly, safely. The same goes for agility.

Quick athletes are not just quicker. They're not just more explosive. They're not just stronger, and they're not just better conditioned. The best athletes, whether taught or not, are usually better at one thing: arranging their legs and feet underneath their torso in order to accelerate and decelerate in and from every direction. This ability is not innate, it's a learned skill. I doubt Barry Sanders ever worked with a speed guru when he was a kid, but somewhere along the line, his body figured out how to start and stop better than most athletes, ever. More to come..

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Comment by Jeremy Boone on April 7, 2009 at 8:16pm
As Joe mentioned check out his Part II article on Agility. It will definitely provide more clarity on what he is trying to get across...good stuff!

Having said that, I also agree with you regarding God given talent. The absolute best example I can think of is Julius Peppers! He can literally do anything and has not to my knowledge been through a long term development program on technical training of agility.

The majority of the Pros I get to work with have had minimal 'technical development' in their training in their youth years. Their coaches would just let them slide because they were so dominant in their sport. Does that mean that they would have not benefited from from a technical model of speed and agility development? No not at all!

In fact, if a knowledgeable coach would have gotten a hold of them in their youth years I believe it would have tremendously helped them further maximize their athletic potential!

So what's my take home point?

Get them while they are young!!
Comment by Joe Bonyai on April 7, 2009 at 7:27pm
Hey Rich - good to hear from you, hope things are going well at GT.

That's another statement I should have clarified. I just posted Part II that attempts to redeem myself.
Maybe I should have substituted "aquired" for "learned". I'm not saying that every great athlete has been taught by coach. However, I don't think anyone is born with this type of ability - but I'm biased - I just finished reading two books, Outliers and Talent is Overrated, both of which portray a different picture of the people we normally consider as "gifted".

I think the best athletes have acquired these types of movement skills - through play, through practice and repetition from a young age. Are they born with some "threshold" level of coordination and athleticism - absolutely. Are they born with a "threshold" level of motivation - absolutely. These two qualities, combined with their environment probably allowed them to develop from a very young age, running, jumping, dogdging, and diving. In Barry Sanders' case - I'm pretty I've heard that he was relatively smaller as a kid and had to work hard to play with bigger kids. He had to figure out the best way to move - at an age at which he was light enough, flexible enough to experiment and try again and again - eventually leading to movement patterns that were developed beyond his competitors in HS and college.

Not to mention - some athletes are born with better neuromuscular make up - this is a good and bad thing as it allows them to overpower bad technique and still look great.

Jeremy Boone posted on a topic similar to this on his site, which takes a little different stance, but I don't disagree with it either - and I think it gets at more of what you're talking about. He works with pro guys who we'd consider freakishly athletic, but they're movement mechanics are horrible. No one in their right mind would change these guys too much. I would definitely check out his posts and site.

It's very hard, and probably wrong to simplify so much. I played baseball so I tend to relate back to it a lot. Agility to me is a lot like hitting - there's not one PERFECT way of doing it, however, I do believe there some critical positions, just like hitting, that great "movers" get into - whether they were taught or not. Look at A-Rod, Pujols, and Manny at impact - all very very similar. But to most eyes, their swings look different. I think it's similar in great athletes (except for the genetic powerhouses, like I mentioned above).
Comment by Richard Johnson on April 7, 2009 at 6:13pm
Joe I have aquestion about a particular statement :

The best athletes, whether taught or not, are usually better at one thing: arranging their legs and feet underneath their torso in order to accelerate and decelerate in and from every direction. This ability is not innate, it's a learned skill.

Aren't some athletes just gifted from God given ability, which would make their ability innate. I am not saying that that some skill is learned, but aren't the great athletes just gifted.

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