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Speed: A Conversation Between Coaches

By Ontario Minor Hockey Association, 10/24/14, 3:15PM EDT


Nearly universal across sport as the signifier of reaching a greater competitive level. But as the game gets faster so must the player

Speed. Nearly universal across sport as the signifier of reaching a greater competitive level. But as the game gets faster so must the player.  

A quick primer on Speed and Reaction Time,The terms Speed and Reaction Time are thrown around interchangeably, but they are actually two different things. 

  • Speed is the athletic ability to rapidly move the body or a part of the body. Think, how fast you can skate, how quick is your wrist shot.
  • Reaction Time is the time between an indicator and a response. Think, the time between the green light and go. 

Think of speed as your raw horsepower and reaction time as your head start. Because of this link, developing reaction time is a crucial component of an athlete’s total speed in play.

There are two main types of reactions that occur in sport: 

  • Simple reactions, which involve only one stimulus and one response (a quick start to a set position off the faceoff).
  • Choice reactions, which have more than one stimulus and more than one response (how to break out of the defensive zone). 

Training to improve reaction time is situation dependent.  Because of this, diversity in practice scenarios is an important part of training reaction time.

We asked Ontario Coaches to share their approaches to developing reaction time in an athlete.

Coach Mark Williams – Hockey –1 Year
“In Ice Hockey, the reaction time of the Centre during face-offs can be crucial. One of the ways we improve reaction time is by predetermining how the Centre will win the draw (tie up the opposing Centre, drawing it back to the Defenders or giving it to the wings) in a given situation in advance. This improves reaction time by eliminating any delay in the Centre’s reaction by having to ‘choose’ a play. Another key element to a Centre’s reaction time during a face-off is having them focus on the movement of the Referee’s arm and hand as opposed to the puck. I.e. getting athletes to focus on the correct stimuli can improve their reaction time.”

Coach Mike Miller – Soccer – 25+ Years 
“Reaction time is about developing the ability to read the visual cues right before an event occurs. It’s about recognizing patterns. Goalkeepers can save difficult shots provided they can see the movements of the player before they shoot, but if they are screened and the ball emerges in flight from a group of bodies, the goalkeeper is beaten. Videotaping, or having access to videotape footage, is useful, especially if it is a “body cam” image. The footage can be played on a screen by the player and blanked out at the critical instance. The player has to determine what happens next and then after a few seconds, the rest of the image is played.”

Coach Colin Walker – Volleyball –30+ years 
“We incorporate speed, agility, and quickness training into our warm-up. We also develop drills that work on reaction time. Finally we create games (low organized games and sport specific) to work on reaction time. One that gets the most laughs and interest is Rock, Paper, Scissors. It is a great game to trigger a visual cue transferred into an explosive physical movement. Start with the simple RPS but the winner must turn and run to a certain ‘home base’ before the loser touches them.” 


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