The old saying is “Strength thrills, speed kills. If he’s even, he’s leavin’ “. How true is that saying? Is speed the most important skill for an athlete? It probably depends on the sport, but for most athletes, speed plays a huge role in how competitive they are. Isn’t speed largely genetic? Can you really make someone faster with training? Yes!!!
Every year, potential draftees for the NFL, NBA, and other sports leagues spend lots of money to work with sports performance experts prior to the draft. Their goal is to improve their strength, speed, and other measurable factors so that they can get drafted higher. While some of these athletes have track backgrounds that have helped them out, many of them have gotten by on genetic speed ability alone. Once they focus on speed training for 4-6 weeks, it isn’t uncommon for some of them to shave .2 of a second off of their 40 yard times. Keep in mind that these are some of the best amateur athletes in the world. They have been training hard for years and they are still able to make major improvements in their speed when they receive focused training on their form.
How does this apply to other athletes? Try this for starters – the next time you go watch a youth sporting event, pay attention to how many times a kid gets beaten by two steps or less. In soccer, how many times does a kid get beaten to a free ball? In baseball, how many baserunners get thrown out by a step or two? In football, how many times does a player need an extra step or two to get by (or catch) another player? From watching all of the sporting events that I have in my life, I can say that it happens A LOT!! One or two steps often makes all of the difference.
So, is speed the most important skill for an athlete to have? It is more important in some sports than others, but in most sports the fastest athletes have a distinct advantage. When you compete don’t you want to have that extra step or two? I’d bet that you do. Keep this in mind when you train.