5. Multidirectional Speed (MDS) Concepts

“I feel the need… the need for speed.” Speed can be described accurately in many different ways. It can be viewed as a mathematical equation: speed equals distance over time (s= d/t). It can be dissected by a track and field coach by its phases: pure acceleration, overall acceleration and maximum speed. Or, it can take on the point of view of a mechanical engineer and assess how the frame, its levers, inter-mechanisms and fulcrums are all analyzed to enhance performance.

The Parisi coach will learn how to integrate all these points of view when leading their speed classes. Parisi coaches must understand the biomechanics of speed in order to design results-driven programming which ultimately increases an athlete’s ability to run faster.

Multidirectional speed training applies to all types of athletes. Multidirectional speed classes are high-energy and filled with drills and applications that enhance an athlete’s ability to quickly change their trajectory in any direction. It is the highest expression in changes of momentum. This skill is used in field and court sports. It is the process of acceleration, deceleration and re-acceleration in all planes of movement. It requires a high-level of skill in managing center of gravity and base(s) of support while mastering the skill of deceleration.

Multidirectional speed involves the same basic elements as linear speed. In fact, it can be viewed as side-ways and diagonal acceleration. According to Bill Parisi’s book, The Anatomy of Speed, “it requires powerful force application, proper posture and body angle, and the ability to create rapid pulses of stiffness and relaxation.” While multidirectional speed training can be easily adapted to reflect sport-specific needs, the fundamental mechanics will not change. The anchor movements and sub-categories of training for multidirectional speed are required for all types of field and court athletes. These include:

  • Change of direction
  • Agility and maneuverability
  • Plyometrics

Change of direction training focuses on rapid, pre-planned changes in directions like a wide receiver running their route. Agility & maneuverability is also rapid in nature, but has a more reactionary response which are unplanned changes in direction. Athletes that possess amazing agility and maneuverability react quickly and precisely to an external stimulus. They use their proprioceptive instincts, visual scanning skills and possess a keen cognitive and finely tuned neurological system. While this category of multidirectional skills is used in both offensive and defensive roles, it is highly desirable by defensive players in football, soccer, hockey and baseball. Agility and maneuverability share the same sub-category in the Parisi system because both respond to an external stimulus. However, when designing drills to improve maneuverability, the goal is to challenge an athlete’s ability to manage their angular momentum and maintain their speed when running at discrete angles. The third sub-category of multidirectional speed is plyometric and jump training. The integration of jump mechanics and plyometric drills support the goals of multidirectional speed development. Properly programmed and designed plyometric and multi-plainer jump drills enhance an athlete’s ability to exert force in a short amount of time and do so explosively.

Multidirectional training begins with the mechanics of acceleration, deceleration and lateral movement. Anchor drills presented in the 2nd quarter of a Parisi class and the applications given in the 3rd quarter serve to imprint the correct motor vocabulary. Drills like the skater and hockey stop reinforce the main focal points of a multidirectional speed class.

  1. A wide base of support.
  2. Low center of gravity.
  3. A strong back and core with retracted and depressed shoulder blades.
  4. Weight-shift to the inside.

These four focal points will guide a Parisi coach when cueing their athletes to better execute all multidirectional speed drills. The consistent emphasis on a low center of gravity, strong back and a wide base during classes leads to strength improvements for youth athletes. Parisi coaches can rely on the combination of isometric holds of the various anchor drills like a speed skater, the eccentric phase of the hockey stop and exercises that focus on strengthening the athletic posture (i.e. banded anterior shoulder abduction pull aparts). Multidirectional speed training is a benefactor of all the anchor drills taught in the linear speed classes with the emphasis placed on deceleration and landing mechanics.

The harmonious relationship between training all types of speeds will help shape an athlete’s motor vocabulary. Parisi classes that focus on multidirectional speed development must include change of direction, agility, maneuverability, and plyometric or jump training. The diversity offered in these various lesson plans assist in reinforcing the 4 key mechanical focal points for multi- directional speed. Parisi coaches should rotate these topics throughout the week to provide the most comprehensive training experience. This alternate training strategy can prevent movement biases from developing. It is common for youth athletes to arrive with a wide range of movement flaws. It is the Parisi coach’s responsibility to expose their athletes to all foundational speed mechanics to prepare them for the numerous body positions they might encounter on the field or court.