One of the best ways to improve overall athletic performance is learning how to react to an outside stimulus with reactionary drills. We see it all the time where the strongest guy in the weight room is absolutely terrible on the field. So how does someone who possess so much raw potential struggle in a game time scenario? Obviously, there are skill components that a player must learn, but a lot of the times the player simply is not able to react to a cue fast enough.
To fix this, coaches will add in drills specifically designed to work on a player’s reaction time and they are called reactionary drills. However, a skill must be taught in layers. You cannot simply add a verbal or visual cue to a workout and expect an improved performance. Instead, you must first teach a skill in a controlled environment, then gradually add on difficulty. Below is an example on how to improve reaction time for an athlete who does a lot of lateral shuffling, such as in basketball, volleyball or football. Note that each step is not a one day event, but rather each step should take several weeks to master.
Shuffle with Arm Drive
Step 1: A player will need to learn proper movement mechanics. This will be the least game specific and instead will introduce the player to a new movement pattern. It is best to start this player in a position that is not game specific. You can see that in this lateral shuffle, the athlete is standing tall and learning to keep his hips squared as he moves.
Step 2: Once a player has truly mastered the simple movement, we then advance it by adding some specificity, while shooting for a target amount of steps. For this player, he will now work on getting lower into his stance with the goal of getting 3 steps out and 3 steps back as fast as he can. He will then progress to 2 shuffles, then finally 1. Each set should be 3-2-1. The player will already know when he will start and stop.
Rapid Response Feet + Leap
Step 3: Finally, we can start to add a reactionary component to the exercise. Instead of showing the rest of the shuffle progression, we are looking at the same concept with leaps. This athlete is still progressing through his shuffles, but has mastered leaps. The same concept will apply with both movement patterns. In this example, the athlete will chop their feet and then respond to a verbal cue. When they hear this cue, they explode into the leap and get back to their starting position. Make sure to start with easy to understand patterns such as right then left. Once the athlete gets comfortable, throw some variability in to make the movement more game specific.
SEE MORE TRAINING TIPS: