Agility Ladders to Improve Your Child's Footwork
Filed under: Kids' Games
The 12-Year-Old Boy (let's call him Paul)
At first glance, Paul was a little on the chubby side. His feet were big for his height and when asked to shuffle side-side he almost tripped himself.
When asked to run forwards and backwards in a straight line he moved quickly but appeared unsteady. As soon as I asked him to do agility or change of direction drills, he would lose his footing. Paul was confident in his abilities in sports, but sometimes a little frustrated and demotivated with his "lack" of coordination.
My Initial Thoughts
I've seen this situation many times, parents needlessly worry about their child's athletic ability. Paul is approaching puberty and his body is about to grow. It's only natural for him to lose some coordination as he adjusts to his changing body. The main focus should be on supporting and encouraging Paul to participate in as many sports as possible. His body will eventually figure itself out. At the very least, he needs to strengthen his core (abdominals and lower back) to ensure his movements are more controlled and effective. Initially, I gave him a variety of crunches and superman floor exercises. He started with 50 per day, done all at once or throughout the day.
Agility Ladders vs. Playground Play
In the sports training world, anytime someone mentions footwork training, coaches automatically take out the agility ladder. The piece of equipment is made up of a series of bars attached by rope to form a ladder, which is placed flat on the floor. Athletes are challenged to run through the ladder in various patterns, making an effort to go as quickly as possible without touching the ropes. The goal is to develop quick and accurate footwork. It is similar to what most of us have seen in the movies, when football players run through a series of ropes or tires using high knees.
The ladder is a great tool for getting kids moving and having fun at the same time. It challenges them to try something new and work on improving their coordination. However, the ladder is limited use, the drills created are short and restricted in their range of motion. Kids need to move in larger ranges and for longer periods of time. This is why sports and playground games are most effective. Consider the footwork and agility required to play a game of tag, to run around a jungle gym, or to play defense in a game of soccer or basketball. These movements are much more challenging on so many levels. As your child participates in these sports and games his coordination, agility and footwork will improve.
If you want to give your kids a step-up in footwork training, have them play a good old-fashioned game of hop-scotch. This gets them hoping, turning and bending without even noticing it.