Why you should add an unexpected stimulus to your training: the guide to improving COD abilities - Part 3

In the last part of this series about Change of Direction, I would like to discuss the difference between pre-planned and unplanned COD. Most coaches already include COD exercises in their training sessions. Usually, cones or poles are used as reference points for changing direction. This means that the course of the athlete is pre-planned.

If you read the first part of this series, you know that you need an external stimulus (e.g. the signal of a LED device) if you want to work on all elements of agility. And you know that COD is the physical part of agility training. So it’s ok to work with a pre-planned course, because we're only focusing on the physical element, right? 


Yes, COD exercises with pre-planned courses are definitely good for improving leg muscle qualities. But, there’s an important difference between pre-planned and unplanned courses in the way our body is behaving. If a player knows where he has to go, he will adjust his body position so that he can change direction as efficiently as possible. According to research, players even pre-activate their muscles (Besier, Lloyd & Ackland, 2003), slow down and lower their body in advance to make decceleration and acceleration to the new direction more effective. 

However, the player doesn’t have that opportunity in a game. He doesn’t know what’s going to happen next, so it’s not possible to prepare the next movement. This means that his body position, muscle activation and centre of mass will be optimal for the current movement, but not optimal for the change of direction.

So put simply, when the movements in the training session are predictable, they don’t reflect a game’s actions. After all, we’re not playing against cones.

What stimulus should be used? 

The most natural method for developing COD skills is obviously the game itself. If you want to train it in specific drills, you can also use ball movements or the movement of other players.

Another solution is to work with an external instruction that indicates the athletes where to go next. This could be the voice or a gesture from the trainer, or you could automate this via a LED device that gives the player a random signal, allowing the coach to focus on the movement and technique of the players.

Pro tip: do you want to focus purely on the technique and footwork of your players? In that case it might be better to work without the external stimulus and give your players time to think. 

To summarize, we can conclude that unplanned or unprepared movements take a considerable part of all game’s related movements, and are significantly different from pre-planned movements. These movements demand specific abilities, and therefore, specific training. To make COD drills as game-like as possible, try to make the next movement or change of direction as unpredictable as possible by letting the players react to an external stimulus. In the end, we’re not playing against cones, but against players who’s actions we cannot predict. 

Want to learn more about change of direction skills or about agility? Register below for more tips & tricks as well as inspiration for exercises. 


Why you should add an unexpected stimulus to your training: the guide to improving COD abilities - Part 3

In the last part of this series about Change of Direction, I would like to discuss the difference between pre-planned and unplanned COD. Most coaches already include COD exercises in their training sessions. Usually, cones or poles are used as reference points for changing direction. This means that the course of the athlete is pre-planned.

If you read the first part of this series, you know that you need an external stimulus (e.g. the signal of a LED device) if you want to work on all elements of agility. And you know that COD is the physical part of agility training. So it’s ok to work with a pre-planned course, because we're only focusing on the physical element, right? 


Yes, COD exercises with pre-planned courses are definitely good for improving leg muscle qualities. But, there’s an important difference between pre-planned and unplanned courses in the way our body is behaving. If a player knows where he has to go, he will adjust his body position so that he can change direction as efficiently as possible. According to research, players even pre-activate their muscles (Besier, Lloyd & Ackland, 2003), slow down and lower their body in advance to make decceleration and acceleration to the new direction more effective. 

However, the player doesn’t have that opportunity in a game. He doesn’t know what’s going to happen next, so it’s not possible to prepare the next movement. This means that his body position, muscle activation and centre of mass will be optimal for the current movement, but not optimal for the change of direction.

So put simply, when the movements in the training session are predictable, they don’t reflect a game’s actions. After all, we’re not playing against cones.

What stimulus should be used? 

The most natural method for developing COD skills is obviously the game itself. If you want to train it in specific drills, you can also use ball movements or the movement of other players.

Another solution is to work with an external instruction that indicates the athletes where to go next. This could be the voice or a gesture from the trainer, or you could automate this via a LED device that gives the player a random signal, allowing the coach to focus on the movement and technique of the players.

Pro tip: do you want to focus purely on the technique and footwork of your players? In that case it might be better to work without the external stimulus and give your players time to think. 

To summarize, we can conclude that unplanned or unprepared movements take a considerable part of all game’s related movements, and are significantly different from pre-planned movements. These movements demand specific abilities, and therefore, specific training. To make COD drills as game-like as possible, try to make the next movement or change of direction as unpredictable as possible by letting the players react to an external stimulus. In the end, we’re not playing against cones, but against players who’s actions we cannot predict. 

Want to learn more about change of direction skills or about agility? Register below for more tips & tricks as well as inspiration for exercises. 


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