The example sessions provided are for a 1-hour duration; however, it is possible that strength and conditioning coaches may be required to tailor the contents of the session depending on time availability (e.g., agility development training may be integrated into the start of a generic skill–based session). Tennis was selected owing to the frequent changes of direction experienced within a typical match (22). Examples of drills are illustrated in Figures 3–5. As a caveat, it should be highlighted that this article will only discuss direct agility training methods and that a well-rounded youth-based training program will include training methods devoted to enhancing strength, power, speed and other key fitness components as suggested by the recently published YPD model (24).
The primary training focus during prepubescence is FMS development. The development of FMS during childhood has previously been deemed essential for long-term athletic development (24) and increased levels of physical activity in later life (25). Specific to the concept of agility training, it has been proposed that FMS development is vital during the early years to ensure that the correct movement patterns are mastered in a safe and fun environment, before these movements are tested in more complex, open-skilled, sport-specific situations (31). This notion is emphasized in the example of the agility cutting movement as displayed in Figure 2.
Research has indicated that ligament loading at the knee joint increases during unanticipated cutting maneuvers when compared with straight-line running because of an increased knee valgus moment, which predisposes the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) to greater risk of injury (4). Female adolescents typically demonstrate a greater valgus knee position than their male counterparts during unanticipated cutting actions and therefore possess an increased risk of ACL rupture (16). Because of the increased injury risk associated with unanticipated cutting movements, the development of FMS (specifically targeting knee, hip and ankle stability in addition to core bracing) is viewed as an essential starting point for long-term agility development.
It should be noted that as children approach and experience puberty, they will experience rapid changes in limb length as a result of the adolescent growth spurt. This physiological process is referred to as PHV, and such changes in stature can lead to temporary decrements in motor control performance, a concept that has been termed “adolescent awkwardness” (32). Although adolescent awkwardness will not affect all children, coaches should be aware of the potential need to retrain certain movement patterns that may have been negatively affected as children become accustomed to movement with longer limbs.
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