Center of Gravity Management – The Secret to Great Game Speed
by Bill Parisi, Founder, Parisi Speed School
Deceleration is an important motor skill that influences an athlete's overall performance and is the foundation of great Game Speed. Deceleration ability is paramount to making "big plays" in any sport that requires fast starting and stopping. Most coaches and athletes do not train, or for that matter, even think about or consider deceleration technique or strength. Would you get into a car if you knew it had no brakes? Would you get on a plane if the pilot did not know how to land? Then why would you ever have your athletes sprint or change direction if they were never taught how to slow down or land properly? This opens the athlete up for potentially serious injury. Let's look deeper into the skill of deceleration and reacceleration during sport movement.
The first area to understand when coaching Game Speed is the concept of "Center of Gravity Management". This is the fulcrum of which all athletic movement originates. The athlete needs to become familiar with their center of gravity and be able to "manage" this aspect of their movement, especially when performing agility Drills. One way to demonstrate how to locate Center of Gravity is using a stopwatch. Put a stopwatch around your neck and let it simply hang down at about navel level. The stopwatch provides a fairly accurate visual of where your center of gravity is located. Then, get down into an athletic position such as a defensive basketball stance, flexing at the ankles, knees and hips, while keeping your back flat. Notice how the stop watch moves slightly forward and away from you. This is still an accurate representation of where the Center of Gravity lies. Now shift your weight to the right by moving your shoulders to your right and placing more weight on the right foot. Notice how the stopwatch moves to the right with you over your right leg.
At the Parisi Speed School we explain movement from a standpoint of "Center of Gravity Management". Before you can have Game Speed, you have to learn this important concept. For instance, to accelerate properly, you must first reposition your center of gravity in front of your feet. To illustrate this, imagine moving a car that has run out of gas. Would you push or pull the car? Everyone chooses to push the car because you have greater leverage when pushing because your center of gravity is in front of your feet, (base of support). A key to maximizing Game Speed is to have your center of gravity in front of your drive foot no matter what direction you are moving. Think again about the position you would be in to push that stalled car? You would be leaning forward into the car and your center of gravity would be in front of your feet. This would also occur if you had to push that car laterally. So, to accelerate properly when sprinting, you need to be in a position to push your body forward, or push your body laterally.
This technique is also used when an athlete is running and does not come to complete stop. If an athlete is moving and needs to change direction quickly, he or she needs to shift the center of gravity toward the direction he or she intends to move in. As the center of gravity is shifting, the drive foot slams down under and slightly behind the center of gravity to push through with a "power" step in the new direction. This is exemplified during a "Speed Cut" by a wide receiver in football. If a wide receiver is on the left hash and is instructed to run a 10 yard speed "Out-Cut", he wants to lean outside and plant with his right foot using a quick drive step and crossover step with the left foot when making the cut. If he does not initially shift his center of gravity to the right, then the right foot plant would be in front of his center of gravity and the speed of this cut would be decreased. Jerry Rice and Barry Sanders were masters of this type of movement. Take a look at your favorite athlete and examine their center of gravity compared to where their feet are planted while they are changing direction.