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6 Considerations For Agility Program Design

6 Considerations For Agility Program Design

Jun 26, 2024

Perform HQ

It's getting clear the identification in the difference between change of direction (COD) and agility training.

But, is all agility drills created equal?

A coach throwing their hand out in a direction and the athlete processing and reacting.


An athlete seeing a defender at a certain position, speed, moving direction & aiming to evade.

Are they the same?

Both certainly have their place. But which one is a progressive stepping stone and which one is developing an athletes ability for processing situations in the live elements of a game.

Agility training has been defined as this step up from COD with the additional cognitive demands that come from unstructured or chaotic drills.

This key word being Cognitive.

How we challenge the mind and the ability to process information, process information at high speeds & make pre-flex decisions is what is the key difference.

It's this 'Agility Zone' and how your attacker and defender have into this zone that's the key in developing your programs.

Image credit: Libby Creative

From a program design perspective here's 6 things you can start to begin with in order to alter your drill creations: 

1. Drill Size

The bigger the size and space to work in, the higher the speeds at which the attacker is changing direction. Changing direction from a static position vs changing direction from a large run up or top speed are two very different demands physically. In some scenarios depending how the drill is started, the spacing will also alter the processing speed at the agility zone. 

2. Drill Entries

We can enter the drills from a;
- Static start
- Rolling start
- Rolling start from curve, shuttle, etc.
- Turn & react (higher processing demands)

These are just a few from a list of starts we use for a programming perspective to help progress the next point.

3. Time To Decision Making

The faster the speeds at which the athlete needs to make a decision the higher the demands of agility.

This is largely dependant on the above two factors and as well the point number four below.

How big is the drill, what is the entry into the drill attack & defence wise, how do they exit the drill?

From a program design perspective and where you start, you have to consider your group and their physical and cognitive abilities.

A group of Youth athletes or athletes with a low training age might start with simple, low decision making game or even simplified COD drills.

While your first grade or semi-professional team might not start with low decision making drills. They might start with drills they have slightly demanding entires or narrow exits.

It's about the ceiling at which their current abilities are and aiming to push it up, from where it is.

This is one of my favourite drills from the Drills Library from a processing time perspective. For the first layer the coach is holding up 1 (left player) or 2 (right player). The attacker can't see this. The attacker has a small rolling start. Once they get that first gate whoever has been called (1 or 2) will step forward. The attacker has that 2-3m window to process and attempt to evade them. From there, to ingrain that 'next job' thought process there's two exits either side with a defender to beat at the end (next point).

4. Drill Exits

By giving a clear exit out of the drill you give a clear goal.

And with any athletes as soon as you give them a clear goal intensity or intent goes up.

These exits can be wide open try lines = lower intent.
Or small windows/lanes = higher intent (As with the video above).

A good percentage of agility work success comes from beating that first defender. But, where the success rate can drop is that second layer where the athlete can get the kind of paralysis analysis and end up just going into the defender or completing an unnecessary/inaccurate pass. By placing exits, we push the cognitive connection that once they get into space, to immediately attack the open space and back their pace. 

5. Number Of Decision To Be Made

Following on from above. You see these incredible highlight reels of athletes where they beat 1,2,3 defenders to set up a try/goal or complete the task themselves. You also see scenarios where athletes beat the first defender before getting into an area of space and either don't back themselves or panic and play a safe play or worse give the ball away. It's scenarios like this we can build confidences and high success rates with.

By adding in 1-3 decisions to be made or layers of defenders, we begin to build in confidence and this layering effect of beating defenders at varied speeds, positions & scenarios.

6. Success Rate

This comes down to you as the coach and your ability to blend and adjust to the group in front of you. Let's say you've got a group of 20 athletes in front of you. You've set up an agility drill but the success rate is 10% at best. Does this provide a development mentality with your group?

How can we adjust drill size, drill entries or time to decision making to open that success rate to 40, 50, 60%?

But at the same time, 100% success rate means there's a lack of challenge and therefore overall development. As you implement these drills we flexible and ensure to adjust your drill set ups based on your group. If you can aim for that sweet spot of 60-80% success rate from week to week, you'll be surprised at what agility scenarios your group will be successfully completely after weeks or months of progress.

The reason defenders see someone like Roger Tuivasa-sheck and hold their feet is because of his success rate. His ability to make a defender look silly and his ability to make a defender overthink. Give your athletes a chance to build up their success rate over time and

1) Install confidence in themselves

2) Start to get a success rate on the field that causes oppositions to double check when they see this particular attacker with the ball in hand.

Need ideas for drills?

Don't forget to check out our Drills Library which is filled with Agility drills and breakdowns of each individual drill.