Agility is the quickness and readiness of movement. It is the ability to change the position of the body with skill and control when faced with some sort of stimulus or opposing movement. This ability requires a combination of skills such as coordination, speed, strength and stamina. It is the union of dynamic balance, or the ability to maintain balance under changing conditions, and speed.
In order for an athlete of any sport to maintain peak performance, he or she must be agile. Most movements in any high-speed sport are multi-dimensional, moving in angles, curves, sharp directional changes, and even frequent starts and stops. If the ball carrier quickly changes direction, the defensive player needs to react. He or she must swiftly apply force in the opposite direction he is traveling in order to follow the motion of the ball. He or she needs quick reflexes and efficient footwork.
Agility training exercises allow an athlete to fine-tune body awareness, reaction time and coordination with selected drills comprised of the components of movement or certain motor skills specific in his sport. Since this ability is based on stop and start demands placed on the body, it requires good strength or the quality of movement will be diminished.
Performing drills allows the athlete to break down every component of movement to be understood and learned. By practicing these drills the athlete can increase the speed and efficiency to which it is executed up to game speed. Each drill should not only be adapted to the individual athlete’s needs and physical fitness level, it should be game specific.
Common drills to increase agility are through the use of obstacle courses, ladders, hurdles and old-fashioned tires. This is where the athlete can work on footwork. Obstacle courses teach the athlete to weave and cut. Things like hurdles and ladders are ways to increase footwork to allow the body to move quickly in different patterns.
Other methods of training are through the use of things like wobble boards, usually a flat foot board mounted on a ball, and Swiss balls. Using these pieces of equipment makes use of reacting to unexpected movement changes. Plyoboxes assist the athlete whose game requires frequent movements where his feet leave the ground.
Agility training is a performance-enhancing component and should be used in addition to regular strength and cardiovascular training. It can help the athlete to step up to the demands of a fast-paced competition and decreases the risk of injuries.