First Step Quickness
Proper running and sprint technique is incredibly important for all athletes. Not only does it help them accelerate quickly, it can also help prevent injuries when changing directions or changing speeds.
A couple weekends ago, I attended the NCCP-1 for athletics. Funny story (and I'm about to expose myself, but that's okay), I had NO IDEA that athletics meant track & field ... and I'm happy to say, I wasn't the only one who thought that either (I won't name names though). Anyways, if I'm going to accidentally end up in any sport-specific course, I think athletics is the most transferrable for a strength coach working with a wide range of athletes.
Proper running technique is often overlooked by many athletes, however, they don't need to be bombarded with a whole new running pattern, it may just be a case of making a couple cues as reminders for them. Running, after all, is just one foot in front of the other, so let's not make it rocket science for athletes ...
There are so many different approaches you can take when teaching "speed", but the first thing I like to start off with is "first-step quickness"/ acceleration - this is most important for athletes, because not all of them are moving in a linear (straight line) pattern all the time.
A couple key pointers I like to focus on for acceleration are shin-angle, knee drive, and centre of gravity (COG).
Shin Angles: When accelerating, if you think about holding your shin bone at a 45° angle towards the ground, it will give you proper positioning to drive your foot through the ground and use that force to move yourself forwards. Think of a swimmer turning and using the wall to propel them forward, runner's don't have that luxury, but with proper angling, you can use the ground to push off of!
Knee Drive: When accelerating, its important to over-exaggerate the knee drive on the first 2-3 steps - this will help the athlete explode from their starting position. Driving the knees up towards the chest (with proper shin angles of course) will allow for an explosive 2-3 steps to get them moving forward quickly.
Centre of Gravity: In order to get proper shin angles and knee drive, the athlete's COG needs to be lower to the ground (think of a sprinter's starting position on the blocks). All good sprinters start low to the ground for their first couple steps until they hit their top speed and strides.
Some of my favourite exercises to help train proper positioning are wall drills, prowler pushes, and sled pulls.
More specifics on drills and programming to come!
Stay quick my homies!