I quickly realized that Part I of this post may have been confusing. Here are my reflections:
1) I make it sound that agility drills shouldn't be used.
2) In the beginning, I say you don't have to teach agility to get someone quicker.
3) I somehow compare agility to golf, which is just confusing in general.
4) I mention that Barry Sanders probably never had a speed coach - therefore I make it sound like speed coaches aren't necessary.
All in all - horrible post. But hopefully I can clarify.
1)Improving someone's time in an agility drill doesn't necessarily mean you've prepared them with skills that will transfer beyond that drill. It's not about time and reps. Is about learning and executing technique.
2)Drills and agility equipment are good things. I know the ladder gets a bad rep sometimes - but I believe it's one the most practical, space efficient tools for teaching technique.
3)Barry Sanders was Barry Sanders because he was stronger, more explosive, better conditioned AND understood how to arrange his feet around his body in order to start, stop and change direction. He combined technique with the physical qualities necessary to move like he did.
Training for agility is not just about timing someone through a configuration of cones. That is a tool that can be used for evaluation, but more importantly it should be the integration of sound fundamentals.
To me, improving someone's agility is to teach them how to arrange their legs around their torso and aim their feet at the ground in order to prepare to move in a given direction (see: Barry Sanders). I like to think of this as Multidirection Ground Preparation. The athlete learns how to prepare for the ground, to react to the ground, to "catch" the ground.
The focus becomes "How can I arrange my body in order to push against the ground the most efficient way possible in order to get me where I want to be going?" Once you teach an athlete to "react" like such, and teach them the fundamentals of multidirectional movement, cone and ladder drills become much more effective, because whether the equipment was there or not, the athlete is performing the drill in a way that will reflect how they'll move on the field.
There are some great demonstrations of this type of teaching and integration on Scotty Moody's website www.athletefit.com - under the featured video sections.