With the NFL combine coming up, many in the world of strength and conditioning are begining to focus on "combine prep", which is completely different then preparing to play your sport. Combine prep prepares you to be successful at the specific tests that are to be performed at the combine, not to develop the attrinbutes that will help you improve on field performance. The 5-10-5 and L-Drill are programmed agility drills that give a comparison of lateral movement skills. The problem is that these drills are studied, stepped off, and repeated so frequently that they no longer test true agility. The athletes developed an adaptation and skill level at a specific drill which will not necessarily transfer to the field. The 40 obviously measures speed, with the 10 and 20 yard splits, giving even further and more specific info. But how often does a football player run 5 yards, much less 40 yards, unobstructed in a straight line?
Speed expressed on the competitive playing field is different then speed expressed at a track meet or when being timed in a 40. Sport relevant speed requires multidirectional acceleration and deceleration, appropriate response to a live stimulus, the alteration of movement based on a frequently changing enviornment, and the ability to overcome an opponent who doesnt want to let you go where you are trying to go. When in live competition, all of these different components of speed can only be expressed after proper recognition of a stimulus and a choosing of the appropriate movement response.
I use a coaching sequence of first introducing ideal movement patterns and movement skills including proper running mechanics, foot placement and posture maintenance during movement. Once this initial base is developed, the athlete must be challenged with and eventually master as many different and increasingly complex motor patterns/tasks as possible. These tasks include different starting positions of sprints, sprint lengths, types of movement, directions of movement, obstacles to movement, resistance to movement and specific types of cuts.
All drills are coached and have specific goals. Setting up cones and running through them without specific goals may be fun but will more then likely just continue to reinforce the athletes current movement skills. All locomotion must be performed with correct execution but the coach must always keep in mind the concepts of individual difference and variability of strengths, weaknesses and comfort levels.