Agility is an important performance characteristic in which athletes must change direction rapidly. Agility directly contributes to success in sports, but what is the best way to test and improve one's agility? The key is knowing the difference between unplanned and preplanned agility.
Preplanned agility is the ability to change direction rapidly with prior knowledge of the directional change. Conversely, unplanned agility is the ability to rapidly change direction while responding to an unpredictable stimulus. Most athletes only train for preplanned agility, but unplanned agility is equally or in many cases more important. This is because unplanned agility training more closely replicates an in-game situation.
Training / Testing Methods
There are many drills used to test and train an athlete's agility. The following describes the difference between the two types of agilities using the most common drill, a T-test.
Preplanned T-test: This is a T-test where a cone is placed at the start. Another cone is placed 10m in front, and one cone 5m to each side of this cone to form a T. The preplanned test is a 10m sprint from the start cone, 5 m shuffle left, 10m shuffle right, 5m shuffle left, and 10m back-peddle to the start line. Athletes should touch each cone as they reach it. The athlete starts on a sound signal and stops when they pass back through the start cone.
Unplanned T-test: The unplanned test is set up the same way, but as soon as the athlete starts, a light will shine on one of the lateral cones indicating which direction the athlete should go. The athlete will sprint to this cone from the start gate and sprint back facing forward the entire time. This will force the athlete to react to the light mid-exercise and will gauge the athlete's unplanned agility.