In hockey one of the main components of fitness used in agility. Agility is “the ability to move and change direction and position of the body quickly and effectively while under control”. Being able to change speed and direction quickly is a crucial technique when it comes to taking on the opposition. Agility drills, especially ladder drills, can also help you become more coordinated and more aware of the positioning of your feet which is an important skill as correct foot-planting in many hockey skills is extremely important.
Some players may find running up and down training ladders a rather boring and monotonous experience so it is important to vary the drills and to try to make them more enjoyable. Hockey players are generally extremely competitive so why not add n element of competition to your agility training. Relay races in small teams are a good way to complete agility drills. Relay races add and element of competition and also teamwork as the people who are recovering can verbally encourage the person racing in their team.
Another way to make agility training more enjoyable is to put in agility drills into a circuit that contains drills to improve other components of fitness, such as core strength, speed and strength. This way players are not completing the same types of drills in succession, which will reduce the onset of boredom therefore players will invest more effort into the drill. This method of training also allows a session to improve more than one component of fitness.
Completing agility training whilst holding a hockey stick is likely to be more beneficial as it makes the drills more specific to hockey. It can help players get used to changing speed and direction quickly, whilst holding their stick.
Agility can be measured using the Illinois Agility Test, which is fairly simple to conduct
Before a training intervention it is important to take a baseline measurement, which can mean that players have greater levels of motivation to improve their score. Also taking a baseline measure is effective for players and coaches to evaluate the training programme; if players are not improving their scores then appropriate changes can be made to the programme, such as increasing the intensity or duration of the drills.
Here are a few examples of agility drills that can be completed by the full team in training. The can be easily implemented into a relay race format or as part of a circuit.
Set up the cones 1.5m apart. Start at the red cone. Sprint around the middle cone and then sidestep to the cone on the left. When you reach the cone on the left turn and sprint back to the centre cone. Next sidestep to the cone on the right, leading with the opposite leg to the previous sidestep component and then sprint back around the centre cone to the beginning. Then the next person can go.
Start on the centre cone and touch all of the surrounding cones, whilst returning to the centre cone in between touching the surrounding ones, in any order. A key point to this drill is to keep facing forward so when you touch the cones out to the left and right you should be sidestepping and running backwards when moving towards the bottom cone and running backwards from the top cone back in to the centre cone. Once all the cones have been touched the next person can go.
Zig Zag Agility Drill
The zig zag agility drill can be performed a number of ways players can sprint to each cone and touch it, concentrating on a quick change of direction. They can also sidestep between the cones, touching each cone before changing the direction. To progress with the sidestepping drill players can complete it facing backwards,, which will mean they will have to use their peripheral vision to locate the cones.
Agility Ladder Drills
For this you will need an agility ladders. There are many drills you can do but here is just a taster of what to do on agility ladders
With all of the agility drills it is important to try and maintain correct technique whilst trying to complete the drills as quickly as possible. When sidestepping, try to be in a low stance which is similar to a hockey stance and on your toes at all times, as you would be whilst playing. Also remember to carry out the drills holding your hockey stick as it is the most important part of equipment in a game of hockey!
Written by: Rachel Cook | Fitness Coach at Bangor University