We caught up with the Young Athlete Development Academy at Storm Fitness for their views on why speed is so important for aspiring rugby players.
In the latest of a series of articles aimed at helping aspiring young rugby players train and perform at the best of their ability, Spencer Davey and Lome Fa’atau of the Storm Fitness Young Athlete Development Academy give their views on why speed is so important for young athletes.
Spencer: When playing at the top level of Rugby, in terms of all the different attributes you had as a player, where does speed rank in your opinion?
Lome: As a winger, or any of the back three, it would certainly have to rank at the top. As a winger or full back, one of the most important attributes is obviously the ability to finish and get over that try line.
Spencer: So looking across to your opposite numbers come game day, how much confidence would you take knowing that you were faster or you “had the wheels on him”?
Lome: Yes it would certainly give you a lot of confidence. You want to make sure that you have the upper hand on him in terms speed and if not you would look to get the upper hand in terms of agility so you have the ability to beat him one on one
Spencer: Going into a game would you advise focussing on your strengths or your opponents weaknesses?
Lome: It’ll be a bit of both. I’ll always look to work on areas I need to work on. For example, I’ll always try to work on maintaining my speed working through from the very beginning of the preseason through into the season. However, for each game that comes along you’re studying the opponents you’re going to be facing, and looking for their weaknesses. Hopefully allowing you to get on top of them come game time.
Spencer: Taking into the account the specific requirements of rugby in terms of the contact side of the sport along with weekly training and everything that comes with that, how easy is to maintain that speed throughout the season?
Lome: Yeah, it’s not easy. It is a contact sport and every week you’re going to get knocks and bruises. It’s important that your recovery is good to get you back as fresh as possible for the next game.
Spencer: What did you find was the most useful recovery tool in your career to get you back as fresh as possible for the next game? Lome: For me it was important that post match I made sure to rehydrate as soon as possible, and get treatment for any knocks or injuries. I also did stretch sessions and had messages as part of recovery.
Spencer: If you were to give young athletes one piece of advice on how to improve their speed, what would be the most important thing for them to do?
Lome: The only way to get fast is to run fast. You may not have access to gym facilities to build that base strength to work and develop your speed from, but you can certainly get outside and do a lot of sprinting. Anyone can get outside and run sprints to improve your speed.
Spencer: What are your thoughts on using resistance tools such as parachutes, sleds and hills for example? Did you find these helpful, and if so which ones?
Lome: I’ve utilised a lot of them; we did a lot of sled sessions to work on power. You can work on different areas of your speed depending on the weight used on the sled. That’s more of a discussion on speed specific work, but in terms of using the sled to develop speed we’re trying to keep the technique as close to non-resistance sprinting as possible. For example, sprinting on a gradient hill will result in a change of technique if it is steep, so the focus in this case will be more on the development of power. I personally found drag sleds worked really well for me.
Spencer: Touching on technique for sprinting, people would argue that you can’t be thinking of sprinting technique in the middle of a rugby game. What are your thoughts on that?
Lome: The nature of the game means that it’s not sprinting as Usain Bolt sprints. There’s running at various angles with lots of stopping and starting requiring a greater focus on acceleration as well as top end speed. You’re also looking at the conditions you’re playing in, which can result in changes to your technique.
Spencer: Yes, so with rugby is it a case of giving players a more rounded approach to their speed training rather than the specificity that a track athlete may receive? Can you be as specific with a rugby players’ technique?
Lome: Yes there are some things that you can do with a rugby player in order to develop speed through improving technique, but we’re not trying to make a rugby player a track athlete.
Spencer: So in one of your test matches Lome. When you found yourself in some space what are your thoughts at that moment, are you thinking about technique or is it all about just going hard at that try line? For example are you focusing on staying upright, driving your arms? Lome: No I think first of all I’m looking to run as fast as I can obviously to get away from my opponent. So I wouldn’t be actively thinking of technique, I’d be first and foremost be looking to protect the ball and trying to beat my opponent.
Spencer: So would it be fair to say that your technique work is developed outside of the game with the hope that, come game time, it will come naturally.
Lome: Definitely. You’re looking to develop that into something that becomes second nature, and that you’re able to take onto the pitch without a second thought.
Spencer: Is there any reason why players can’t be doing one running technique session at least once a week? Lome: In season you should certainly be looking to get at least one speed/technique session in per week, if not two.
Spencer: In terms of the weekly training plan where should these sessions be done Lome? Are we talking rest days or before a training session perhaps?
Lome: Yes, it would depend on the individual, for me it was almost always at the start of a training session throughout my career. We also were able to fit in a speed session the day before the game as well. Because it is the day before the game it is very short and sharp, and was essentially like a neural charge session which we used to get the body ready for the game.
If you would like more details on how to improve your speed or you would like to work with Lome, email firstname.lastname@example.org to book a consultation.