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Agility in Invasion Sports: Position Stand of the IUSCA

Young, Warren, Dos'Santos, Tom ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2715-0116, Harper, Damian, Jefferys, Ian and Talpey, Scott (2022) Agility in Invasion Sports: Position Stand of the IUSCA. International Journal of Strength and Conditioning, 2 (1).

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Abstract

Agility is a complex skill that is influenced by several physical, technical and cognitive factors. In this position stand, we discuss agility as it relates to invasion sports such as the many football codes. An important concept when conceptualising agility is understanding how it is applied on the field or court. Agility is particularly important in contests between attackers and defenders. For example, an attacker needs to create space or separation from defenders, in order to evade or to maintain possession of the ball. Conversely, defenders may require agility to reduce time and space in relation to the attacker, thereby applying pressure with the intention of achieving a turnover of possession. The movements performed in an agility scenario are diverse, and may involve an isolated deceleration, or a range of actions to produce a lateral displacement of the body at various angles and speeds. To create novel insights into agility, the interactions between predators and prey are explored in the animal world and reveal that successful pursuit (like a defender) or escape (like an attacker) is influenced by the ability to accelerate and attain high speeds, decelerate, and manoeuvre with control at optimum speeds, as well as expressing perceptual and cognitive skills. A plethora of sports literature claiming to discuss agility actually refers to pre-planned change-of-direction (COD) movements, known as COD ability. There are several differences between agility and COD ability, which should be considered when testing and prescribing agility activities. The characteristics of different agility techniques are presented and discussed with consideration to performance and the risk of injury such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture, with the aim of creating multiple movement solutions for the athlete. Due to the diversity of agility actions performed in invasion sports, physical development should include tissue strengthening as well as fast and slow stretch-shortening cycle exercises to cater for different speeds and angles of agility movements. The speed and accuracy of decision-making in agility contests (cognitive component) are determined by the athlete’s ability to anticipate opponent’s actions, visually scan the environment, recognise patterns of play, and predict movement strategies based on knowledge of situations. One versus one contests, small-sided games, and video perceptual training can enhance the cognitive component of agility. Finally, there is no single coaching strategy or method that should be used to develop agility. Instead, the appropriate methodology must fit the individual needs of athletes, and therefore a mixed multicomponent approach is needed as part of an agility framework. Training examples to develop agility are presented throughout this position statement.

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