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Change of Direction -Training for Quickness

The 10 yd Sprint to Decel?

The 10 yd Sprint to Decel test gives athletes the ability to measure both linear acceleration and deceleration all in one test. With all the emphasis on the 40yd dash as the go to for testing an athletes speed, we forget that at some point in sport you are going to have to slow down, fast! The 10yd sprint to decel puts an emphasis on acceleration and deceleration while giving us the ability to quantify both. Although the test happens in a linear environment the article will provide insight to training deceleration and change of direction in all planes of movement.


Set up speed gates or lasers if you have them, preferably a system that beeps when an athlete crosses the line giving them external feedback to respond to. A stopwatch can be used, however having the external feedback such as a beep from the gate creates more accuracy when looking at reaction. Set the gates at a 10 yard distance as this is a valid measure of an athletes raw acceleration. At the 10 yard mark lay a tape measure out at up to 200" or more based on the level of your athletes. When the athlete crosses the line they must decelerate as quickly as possible in a controlled, athletic position. Measure from the 10 yard mark to the furthest most point of the lead foot and this distance becomes the second part of your score in the test. For example; 1.8 sec/140". Using 20yds would also be effective, as we know that elite level sprinters and athletes are sometimes still accelerating up to 60 meters and over. More novice athletes reach top speed around the 15-30m mark with youth athletes even less than that.


As with any speed test you want to know where you stand against others. I have found that athletes who are efficient at decelerating and the “absorption” of force are able to decelerate in less than 120", elite athletes being closer to 100”. See the rankings below from a primarily high school population to see how you stack up.

Elite: <100” Varisty: 100 – 120” JV: 120-140” Freshman: 140” and over

Key Performance Points: 1) Be sure that athletes are accelerating through the 10 yd mark before beginning to decelerate. 2) Decelerate in an athletic position. Remember you are preparing for the next play.


Apart from track and field there are very few sports that do not require an athlete to change direction to be successful. Apart from the above video being absolutely awesome, it shows us that to be great at change of direction an athlete must go from moving in one direction to rapidly decelerating and then re-accelerating again in another direction. It’s this deceleration efficiency that is vital to an athlete’s quickness. Just because you have a fast 40yd dash time doesn’t mean you will be a great athlete in competition. You must be able to avoid a defender and create space, like a rabbit escaping the fox. Great athletes are both fast and quick and you will need both to truly shine.

Football, soccer, basketball, field hockey, volleyball, lacrosse and rugby are great examples of sports that require tons of deceleration to be really effective. The restraints of sidelines create this “stop and go” environment that athletes are forced to react to. We must also understand that being able to absorb or accept forces during deceleration is imperative to preventing injuries to joints of the knees, hips and spine. Newton’s third law states that for every given action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, when an athlete is changing direction on the football field or landing after jumping up for a rebound in basketball there is equal forces being applied to their center of mass as they are putting into the ground upon impact.


Training deceleration requires that we teach the body how to apply the brakes quickly. If all you do is lift weight during training you will never reach your potential with respect to true athleticism. A good athlete must be strong to express the qualities of quickness, speed, agility, and deceleration, but you must do more than just lift heavy weight. To be a great athlete you must be able to accelerate and decelerate in all planes of movement, both to avoid injury and perform at the highest level in our sport.

The videos below will give you ideas for adding deceleration and quickness exercises into your training.

Landing Mechanics

ISO Catch Variations for Strength

Speed Lunges

Reaction and Quickness

Banded Change of Direction

Banded Hops and Change of Direction

Just remember that the most successful training program for any athlete is one that is built on consistency and commitment. You must have a plan, and then commit yourself to this plan every day, forever. If you can do this you will see results. Find a coach who you trust and create a plan for success, a plan that will make your weaknesses stronger and your strengths even more polished. Then test where you want to see change, and get to work. That was the reason for creating the 10yd Sprint to Decel test for our athletes at XIP, I wanted to know how good their deceleration or “brakes” were so that I could make better decisions in program design. Just shopping around YouTube for fancy new exercises each week will not work, and none of the exercises above will make you better just by doing them a few times here or there. You need a system for success, a plan for progression and a drive to dominate every training session you go into. You must have a solid platform of all athletic abilities to be truly great, and then you must hone those skills every day, forever. The journey of an athlete is a marathon not a sprint, commit yourself for the long haul and you will find greatness…

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