Updated: Jul 16, 2021
As much as speed is closely associated to natural talent, and people having great genetics to be fast. People and coaches forget that sprinting is still a SKILL ! It is still as much of a skill as performing a back squat or passing a ball!
I think that’s where performance coaches and athletes without adequate sprint training knowledge and experience go wrong. Therefore sprinting should absolutely be “practiced” regularly with a particular focus on acceleration and speed mechanics at a certain level of sessions per week all year round ! We know from the gym that strength and endurance qualities are much more trainable so these qualities will improve quicker than building the skill required for great acceleration and sprinting mechanics. In addition to exposure to sprinting, these boxes can be ticked relatively quickly and easily.
In the last couple years being around the performance circles I can tell you the speed training element to most teams and sports is incredibly poor. From choice of exercises such as A wall holds or questionably executed A Skips right through to Upright running mechanics and even the volume of sprints done per session. I know at certain professional club once a player records close to their top speed ONCE in a field session they are told for the rest of the session to back down to slower speeds to not risk injury. I can understand this, but do I think that’s best practice to getting athletes to improve their top speed and reduce injury risk by learning to sprint fast ? Absolutely not.
That’s like saying to an NBA player: “oh you’ve shot 8 3’s this practice, if you shot one more 3 you are at greater risk of an elbow injury so you can’t shoot anymore 3’s”.
I bet you’re thinking that’s pretty stupid. What if the player had to shoot 10 x 3’s to win a game ?
Speed is a skill that needs to be trained regularly with concerted effort, just the same as passing a ball or shooting a 3 pointer. Learning the best drills for speed mechanics, and learning the best way to coach acceleration to an athlete is going to go a lot further than doing low ROI drills that “don’t put an athlete at risk”. Because one of the best ways to reduce injury risk of high speed runs to an athlete that is healthy or rehabbing at training is by sprinting with educated mechanics !