If you’re like most athletes, you probably focus your training on aerobic conditioning and muscular strength and endurance. While those attributes give you a good base for sports, don’t forget to work on your agility, which helps you reach more grounders, hit more backhands, make more shots on goal and dig more spikes. Using a variety of simple tools and techniques, you can improve your agility and dazzle opponents with fancy footwork.
A rope ladder is an inexpensive training tool that helps you perform a variety of footwork drills. Moving in and out of the rungs of the ladder using one foot, both feet at once or alternating feet, you improve your ability to move your feet quickly and on balance. If you don’t have access to a footwork ladder, use chalk or tape to create one on a hard surface.
It’s important that you learn and practice how to move making quick, repeated changes of direction. Spider drills require you to move forward, backward, laterally, on an angle and side to side. Envision the neat, angled lines in a spider’s web as you create drills that move you in multiple directions. A tennis court offers you the chance to use its lines to move from spot to spot in a uniform pattern. Keep your torso straight and eyes forward to improve your body balance as you make your moves.
Create a footwork course using low hurdles that force you to raise your knees and perform short jumps as you run. Don’t space your hurdles evenly -- place some closer together so you can only take one step between hurdles, and put others farther apart so you need two steps between jumps. If you don’t have hurdles, use low sports cones.
Use calf-height boxes to create a variety of stepping and jumping exercises. Perform steps and jumps using one foot at a time, using both feet at once and alternating feet. Step and jump moving forward onto the box, then forward off it. Step onto the box from each side. Box marching requires you to step up, step back, then change feet and repeat, requiring you to maintain your balance while you work on your footwork.
Running through closely spaced tires is a decades-old, tried-and-true method for improving footwork and agility. After several practice runs, make yourself stop and go back each time you miss a tire or fall, completing the drill only when you hit every tire correctly.
Practice jumping rope using a variety of footwork. Rather than simply landing on both feet each time, alternate steps, land on only one foot for 30 seconds, jump rope while walking or skipping forward and practice crossing your arms over each other as you try to maintain your balance.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.