My 13 year old daughter is tall (5'9") and still growing. At her checkup this fall, the pediatrician felt she had about two more years of growing to do. Most of her teammates (and competitors) have completed their growth spurts. This has led to her becoming less agile than them. She is one of the fastest at a full field sprint or longer distances, but she is struggling with quick, up close movements. She is quite competitive, so this is frustrating her. Any suggestions for how to improve quickness and agility while still in the adolescent growth spurt? She primarily plays lacrosse and field hockey but also some basketball.
As a parent of two athletic kids, this is my take.
At 13 there isn't much difference in types of exercises you'd do versus an adult. The big modifiers are volume and form. Kids actually recover fairly quickly, and all available scientific studies show that once kids over 6 know how to do exercises properly there are only advantages to them doing it.
So since we don't need to slice and dice between "kid" and "adult" exercises, you're looking at a straightforward question of "how do you train explosive movements?"
Ballistic and explosive movements require a lot of training for most people to grasp, and they are easy to get wrong. Once you start a lift/jump, you're committed and backing out doesn't work, sort of like pitching or swinging in baseball.
Here are some that I would add in for general athleticism:
- The box jump. Big boxes require a lot of force production in a very quick amount of time, and they work well to train for other more complex weight lifting moves. There are also lateral jumps and multiple jumps; lots to read up on.
- The clean. Very easy to do wrong, but also the staple of basketball players and anyone needing to be able to explode up and work on their vertical jump. There are squat cleans, power cleans, clean and jerks, and others. They all have their advantages but I favor the squat clean because you get a squat in there too which is awesome.
Depending on what you mean by "agility", if you consider someone like an NFL running back, this definition works well:
Agility is the ability to rapidly change directions without the loss of speed, balance, or body control. As with other fitness components, agility is specific to a particular movement pattern. One problem with agility training is that an athlete can learn to anticipate the next movement. Therefore, the athlete should be required to respond to a directional order.
For something like that, you can consider the agility ladder. Doing a pattern forward, then on a verbal command switching immediately to a reverse pattern, is very helpful but extremely difficult.
In summary, agility and rapid force production training is no different than with an adult. I wouldn't take a fit 28 year old and have them do barbell cleans unless they had good form and I wouldn't do it with an 8 year old either. But if both of them have been taught and know what to do, evidence and practical experience in professional training shows exercises like the clean to be incredibly valuable.
For agility, consider what your young athlete really needs. Quick direction changes? Immediate stops? Combining explosive training with the mind-muscle connection that comes from agility drills will serve any athlete well.