4 Common Errors Youth Athletes Make

At Cressey Sports Performance, speed and agility are all the buzz now. In fact, we are so focused on improving movement quality, that we often prescribe for our professional athletes two days quite literally focused on the movements outside of just lifting heavy weights.

It is one thing to create the environment for lifting weights, and another to take that next step and help an athlete learn how to sprint better, decelerate better, and improve their overall movements that you know will transfer to their sport.

Here are a few things that I see on a daily basis when it comes to errors that our athletes make.

Not Being Aggressive Enough with Arm Swing

This is a common item, as whenever we begin teaching sprinting drills at CSP, most often the athlete just simply hasn’t been instructed on what to do with their hands. Most of the time sport coaches will cue feet and knee mechanics, but not many think to also cue hands to help improve motion in either a forward or lateral direction.

This is a simple fix, however.

Simply cue the athlete to bring their hands back behind their torso by any means necessary. You can use tall kneeling drills, seated drills, or external cues to help improve this process.

Arm Swing - Corrections
Left (Correct): Top Hand placement is correct, and bottom arm angle is further back than the right. Right (Incorrect): Hand placement is more forward than left picture, and down arm’s angle is less than left.

Lack of Positive Shin Angle During Linear Acceleration

Another item is what to do with their body when they are “getting out of the hole.” There are many reasons why someone may look to improve their “shin angles” – they might be chasing an opponent, they are rushing back to defense (basketball), or any slew of items in which linear mechanics are of the most importance.

You see, when talking about speed drills, there needs to be an understanding that everything needs to contribute to going as fast as you can. If 3 out of 4 pieces of the puzzle are there, but that last piece is nowhere to be found, then you may be left in the dust by an athlete that could be stronger, faster, or more technically efficient.

Linear Acceleration
Left (Correct): Positive shin angle leads to better forward motion of the athlete. Right: Negative or neutral shin angle reflects deceleration or slowing down.

This item talks about the ability for ground reaction forces to displace in a horizontal fashion. If you can imagine, there needs to be an equal and opposite force to whenever you move. So if you have a “knees over your toes” angle, you will tend to “fall” forward.

This can reinforced through several drills:

  • Lean-Fall-Sprint
  • Half Kneeling Starting Positions (into a Sprint)
  • Push Up and Go Starting Positions (into a Sprint)
  • Jump Back into a Sprint (in which the positive shin angle is created by a reactive step)
  • Prowler Pushes/Marches

… among many other drills.

If you don’t have a positive shin angle, you will be “telling” your body to decelerate automatically, and your lower half of your leg is no longer contributing to speed and acceleration.

Lack of Positive Shin Angle During Lateral Deceleration

This is very similar to the other item mentioned above, although the spin on this error is referring to what occurs during side to side deceleration.

Many drills and tests even separate the good from great, such as the Pro Agility Shuttle Test or 5-10-5, in which you are decelerating several times to identify how good your mechanics are for acceleration and deceleration.

This shin angle is important, because this can mean the difference between being cut off, or making an important play whether you are on the field, court, or rink.

Keep in mind this is no encouraging a genu valgus or simply knees collapsing in towards each other. This purpose is to improve your abilities to absorb force, and decelerate appropriately without any extraneous steps.

Lateral Deceleration Collage
Left (Correct): The positive or acute shin angle will reflect the ability for the athlete to change directions quicker than the picture on the right. Right (Incorrect): The positive shin angle also reflects oversupination in which the athlete loses footing and could possibly roll an ankle!

Lack of Head Movement During Deceleration

This last item is one that is not often talked about, because it is not thought about that much.

If I can summarize this in one phrase – where the head goes, the body follows.

So if you are talking about acceleration or deceleration, your eyes and head position are vastly important towards improving your mechanics.

In fact, it might be one of the most important items, for the mere fact that you have many vestibular related items in your noggin, along with needing the ability to view and be aware of what is going on the field. If you are caught up looking down at the grass, you won’t be able to see what is going on player wise, positions that may be compromised, ball placement, among several different items.

So, barring any negative detriments towards tactical or strategic items (head fakes in basketball), if you can lead with your eyes towards the destination you want to go.


  • If you want to jump in the air, you need to look up (barring keeping your eyes on the ball).
  • If you want to go forward, look down (re: acceleration).
  • If you want to change directions, shift your eyes towards that direction, even if your body is going in another direction.

These are just a few items that I’ve picked up along my travels as a strength coach and trainer for several different sports and clients. I believe you can learn so much more by signing up to be a Certified Speed and Agility Coach by Lee Taft. I’ve had the blessing of being the “model” for this product, and we had a lot of time to discuss other cool things outside of filming. Please check it out, and remember I do get a cut if you do sign up through my affiliate links. Thank you!


As always,

Keep it funky.

P.S. This speed and agility course ends today, Friday, January 29, so make sure to sign up because the powers that be will be shutting down sign-ups afterwards!

–> Become a Certified Speed and Agility Coach today! <–


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