The concept of agility
The agility is an essential physical quality in soccer to achieve a quick start to action, change of direction (COD) and short-distance running (1,2). Along with accelerations and maximum speed, agility is one of the most important specific qualities in soccer (3).
Agility: rapid whole-body movement with change of speed or direction in response to a stimulus (4).
Agility consists of two main components:
- Change of direction (COD)
- Perceptual and decision-making factors.
Performance factors associated to agility
Perceptive and cognitive factors
This factor is of paramount importance in soccer. The reaction time to stimuli could be the predictor of agility time (5). Players with inappropriate decision-makings and long reaction times show higher injury risks (they will be able to avoid fewer collisions, sprained ankles on landings after an aerial fight, etc). In addition, any action involves a prior decision-making process.
Essential element of CODs ability (4). The presence of decision-making into the action negatively affect the running speed when making the step to change direction, so foot position pattern differs from previously programmed. Reaction time is very important.
The principal purpose of an agility action is re-direction the whole-body in the same direction as fast as possible (6). Several authors have showed a direct relationship between agility tests and jump and sprint performance (2). This author found that players who obtained higher jump height (CMJ and SJ) and lower sprint time showed greater agility. However, other authors did not find such correlation (7).
Small-sided games (SSG)
SSG is a very complete exercise that improves both decision-making and movement speed. However, there is controversy in the literature about its suitability as there are different demands among positions. Furthermore, it is unlikely that players perceive, decide and act on an SSG as they would on the soccer-11 field (8).
Sporis, Milanovic & Vucetic (9) analyse the reliability and validity of different soccer agility tests. The authors highlight the important to perform the test simulating the real conditions (with football shoes and on the specific surface), to avoid different ground contact forces.
The most used agility tests (9):
Differences between positions
Different tests are recommended according to the specific functions and demands required for each position:
- Defenders: T-Test (longer backward running)
- Central-midfielder: s180º/SBD (more CODs and higher frequency)
- Attackers: S4x5 (similar movements)
Types of stimuli
Different types of stimuli (EE) are used in agility tests with high reliability: light-EE, video-EE and human-EE. Human-EE show are the most reliable and also are much closer to ‘real situation’ (10).
- Light-EE: the player has to react and perform the precise movement or COD when a light is turned on.
- Video-EE: the player has to react to an EE presented on screen.
- Human-EE: the player acts depending of other player (e.g. reaction to player’s movement).
However, the research is increasing to validate test much closer to real soccer situations; with the ball, decision-makings, more players or unexpected EE.
Finally, agility consists in change direction fast and easy. By training agility, balance and coordination players will be able to move and change direction faster while keeping a good body control and balance. So for improving agility, athletes have to train power, balance, speed and coordination (9). In addition, it is of paramount importance to include perceptive and decision-making process in training (7). The authors advise to use training drills with a series of visual stimuli, where players have to react and change direction repeatedly and have more directional alternatives and running directions. Therefore, SSGs are a recommended training exercise.
- Lloyd RS, Oliver JL, Radnor JM, Rhodes BC, Faigenbaum AD, Myer GD. Relationships between functional movement screen scores, maturation and physical performance in young soccer players. J Sports Sci. 2014; 33(1): 11–9.
- Negra Y, Chaabene H, Hammami M, Amara S, Sammoud S, Mkaouer B, et al. Agility in Young Athletes: Is It a Different Ability From Speed and Power? J strength Cond Res. 2017; 31(3): 727–35.
- Little T, Williams A. Specificity of acceleration, maximum speed, and agility in professional soccer players. J Strength Cond Res. 2005; 19(1): 76–8.
- Sheppard JM, Young WB. Agility literature review: Classifications , training and testing. J Sports Sci. 2006; 37–41.
- Scanlan A, Humphries B, Tucker PS, Dalbo V. The influence of physical and cognitive factors on reactive agility performance in men basketball players. J Sports Sci. 2014; 32(4): 367–74.
- Lyle MA, Valero-Cuevas FJ, Gregor RJ, Powers CM. Lower extremity dexterity is associated with agility in adolescent soccer athletes. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2015; 25(1): 81–8.
- Matlák J, Tihanyi J, Rácz L. Relationship Between Reactive Agility and Change of Direction Speed in Amateur Soccer Players. J strength Cond Res. 2016; 30(6): 1547–52.
- Young W, Rogers N. Effects of small-sided game and change-of-direction training on reactive agility and change-of-direction speed. J Sports Sci. 2014; 32(4): 307–14.
- Sporis G, Jukic I, Milanovic L, Vucetic V. Reliability and factorial validity of Agility Tests for Soccer players. J Strength Cond Res. 2010; 24(3): 679–86.
- Paul DJ, Gabbett TJ, Nassis GP. Agility in Team Sports: Testing, Training and Factors Affecting Performance. Sport Med. 2016; 46(3): 421–42.
S&C Coach | Rehab Therapist | Sport Scientist
If you have any doubt, do not hesitate to leave your comment. If you liked the post, share it on social media!
This article has been made based on the references showed, other studies reviewed but not showed and according to the experience and knowledge of the author. In this way, it may include subjective ideas and opinions not contrasted in the research.