Athletes like to use agility as a general term to measure their performance, along words like ‘strength’, ‘speed’, or ‘power’.
When we look more in depth into what it means to have good ‘agility’, what does that look like in sport?
When we think of someone who is agile, we often image a rugby player slipping through tackles, or a soccer player weaving his way through the opposing defense, but is that the only kind of agility there is?
In sports like sprinting or gymnastics, where change of direction is not as prevalent, would that mean agility is less important to them? The short answer is of course not, but to understand why agility matters to almost all sports, we need to clarify what ‘agility’ really means.
One definition for agility is “A rapid whole-body movement with change of velocity or direction in response to a stimulus” (from Sports Medicine Open). This includes, but is not limited to change of direction ability, which does not require a response to a stimulus. By applying this definition of agility to the previous examples of sprinting and gymnastics, we can see that they involve a great deal of change in velocity and require the athlete to respond to the stimulus of high-ground reaction forces.
To have good agility means more than being better at your sport, but agility is also a great determinant of injury risk, body biomechanics, and muscle strength/stability.
Due to all the demands on the body when testing agility, we can see lots of the fundamental skills in most sports and break down both physical and cognitive elements that are potential barriers to an athlete’s performance. Once you identify these barriers, all it takes to improve performance is to break down the individual skill and train them separately. Examples of skills commonly trained through agility include reactive strength, dynamic balance, vision, core stability, hip flexibility, and ankle mobility.