Agility & Pre-planned Change of Direction Speed
Sprints that include a CoD precede 6% of all goal-scoring situations in soccer (Faude et al., 2012). Even though this may appear low, players cover an average of 217 + 165m through multidirectional sprints (Castagna et al., 2003), accounting for 3.5% of their total distance. From a time-motion perspective, players change direction every 3.8 – 4.5 seconds (Bangsbo, 1994).
However, true Change of Direction Speed (CoDS) in invasion sports is rare (Jefferys, 2011), defined as a pre-planned task where “change of direction” occurs (Sheppard & Young, 2006). Albeit, closed CoDS drills can be used be as general tissue preparation to develop eccentric strength, dynamic balance and concentric rate of force development as a physical foundation to agility without a cognitive component.
This isn’t to say that developing CoDs is useless. Pre-planned side steps result in greater lateral foot placement, greater lateral movement speed, greater forward foot displacement, increased hip abduction, lower knee joint angles and reduced forces through the knee than unplanned side stepping (Brown et al., 2014; Houck et al., 2006). This can help us develop the physical aspects of agility.
On the other hand, agility is defined as a “rapid whole-body movement with a change of velocity or direction in response to a stimulus”. With a change of velocity being agility, deceleration alone could be performed as an offensive agility transition (Young et al., 2015).
For example, a winger could be performing a linear sprint with the ball down the line, towards the the touch line. As they approach the touch line at a high speed, they stop the ball before it goes out, decelerate past the ball and turn back towards it to cross or pass. The aim of the deceleration was to go from ‘fast to slow’ more suddenly than a defender, to create time and space to execute a pass or cross.