Realities of Speed: Interview with Track Coach Hakan Andersson

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1. When it comes to team sports like soccer and youth athletes in particular, there is limited time available to train physical qualities such as speed. What role does speed development has in the overall physical development of the youth athlete with varying ages (i.e. from early to late adolescence)?

Hakan: Team players gets a lot of acceleration, start&stop and change of direction stimuli in the team practice in general… small sided games in particular. The problem though that it develops a rather restricted movement patterns and poor sprinting mechanics. You often see 12-year-old soccer players moving better than 22-year-olds. Fore obvious reasons, I suggest some time is spent doing linear sprinting of various lengths and intensities at all ages.

2. Monitoring the athlete's neuromuscular well-being and cardiac-autonomic readiness status has become a hot topic in sports practice and research. What are your thoughts on the available tools regarding their usefulness and sensitivity in the applied setting?

Hakan: I believe that no tool or gadget can ever replace frequent, open, and honest communication between athlete and coach.

3. To improve sprint performance the athlete has to train multiple physical qualities at the same time. Based on your experience, what are the key physical qualities that underpin sprint performance and what is the best way to objectively quantify them

Hakan: I believe that movement quality should always be top priority, but one also has to understand why an athlete is moving a certain way. Is there an underlying issue, is there lack of strength, lack of mobility etc. The coach’s eye/ears in combination with the athlete’s feedback is crucial.

4. Strength, power and plyometric exercises to improve speed have a long history. How do you determine the transfer from strength, power and plyometric exercises performed in the gym and on the track on real sprint performance?

Hakan: It is very individual and very much depends on the athlete’s talent and experience. Some athletes are just born jumpers with great elastic strength capabilities. For them you will usually get a great transfer from the weight room and for others not, especially if they did not get exposed to jumping at a rather early age.

5. What role does performing general strength exercises such as back squats and deadlifts play in regards to developing a sprinter from adolescence to close to retirement?

Hakan: I see heavy lifting more as general training, but in many cases it will transfer to speed for novice athletes regardless of sport. For elite athletes it has very limited transfer and you always have to consider the diminishing return to speed - mainly due to increased body mass. It is possible that the endomorph body type has more to gain than the more slender elastic type of sprinter.

6. Technology and monitoring tools such as the Force-velocity profiling are becoming more readily available to the normal coaches. What are your thoughts on determining the Force-velocity profile of a sprint and a jump , and their relationship to each other?

Hakan: Even though most of the time hard to see a direct transfer to speed, I see many values and have been using this type of equipment since the early 1990 (MuscleLab by Ergotest Technology). I like to monitor the athletes progress regardless what quality we are talking about and I also see great value in direct biofeedback to the athletes.