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Gamespeed vs Agility

Cheslin Kolbe display of Gamespeed and/or Agility in RWC 2019.

Gamespeed is a term that has gained a lot of traction over the past few years. Ian Jeffreys has written a book called Gamespeed, and defined it as:

"context specific, where an athlete maximises their sports performance via the application of sport‐specific movement of optimal velocity, precision, efficiency and control in anticipation of, and in response to, the key perceptual stimuli, and skill requirements of the game."

Agility is a term that has been around a long time and there have been numerous definitions of what agility is. But this definition by Sheppard and Young (2006) is now widely accepted:

"a rapid whole-body movement with change of velocity or direction in response to a stimulus."

Gamespeed is specific towards sports in particular (as suggested by examples used in the book). While agility can be more applicable outside of sports (physical education or general population private clients). There are similiarities in the two defintitions - both refer to movement, velocity and a stimulus/stimuli. I will compare and contrast the terminology used in the gamespeed definition versus the agility definition. As will be shown, a lot of the terminology used is subjective and contextual, so enhancing either gamespeed or agility is very much down to practitioner interpretation. My own view is that these are the same thing - Gamespeed is Agility in sports. When training either "skill" in sports, there are two vital factors: 1) the stimuli used is representative of the stimuli found in a game (whatever game the athlete plays), and 2) all components (velocity, direction, perception of stimuli) are trained as one.

"sport-specific movement" versus "rapid whole-body movement"

Both definitions refer to movement, which, to state the obvious, is an important part of many sports. Sport-specific movement isvery hard to define. Aside from some set-pice scenarios that are unique to a particular sport (scrum/line-out in rugby; throw-ins in football/soccer), many movements are common across sports - accelerating, decelerating, back-pedaling, side-shuffling etc. Something that will alter movement strategies will be the rules of the game. A football/soccer player will have to alter his movement style to maintain control of the ball with their feet, versus a hurler who has to control the ball using a hurl, versus a Gaelic footballer who has to play the ball (bounce or solo) every four steps, versus an Australian rules player who has to bounce the ball every ten steps. A rapid-whole body movement indicates to me that a player's centre of mass must move as opposed to just limb movement. This straight away disregards the use of ladders as a useful tool to develop agility for sports.

"optimal velocity" versus "change of velocity"

Velocity or speed in sports is an x-factor trait. But not everything should be done as fast as possible, but as optimal as possible. Optimising velocity is an alternative way of changing velocity in that to execute an appropriate skill at a given time, sometimes players may be best suited to slowing down. Optimal velocity suggests that the focus is on skill execution - and that could mean a player needs to speed up (a faster run up for a more powerful shot in football) or slow down (slowing down for a long pass in rugby). Changing velocity can also mean speeding up or slowing down, having the ability to do both is important for agility performance. I think both terms have the same meaning.

"key perceptual stimuli" versus "a stimulus"

Both of these suggest that movement is initiated in response to a stimulus or stimuli. Stimuli in general can include a range of possibilities: whistle, clap, shout, teammate open for a pass, opponent facing a certain way, what a player feels (when a player shirks a tackle in rugby). Key perceptual stimuli are more specific to the environment in which the athlete plays: player position, ball speed, player speed. When preparing in general (without any consideration for a sport), using any stimulus technically satifies the definition of agility - potentially suitable for PE lessons and private or semi-private classes with general population or recreational athletes. However, when working with athletes in a specific sport, it is important that the stimuli used are representative of the stimuli the athletes face in competition.

Developing Gamspeed/Agility

What I have done in this post is break down the definitions of Gamespeed and Agility and analyse all parts in isolation of each other. This is congruent with the traditional method of developing agility - task decomposition. I would much prefer to use task simplification to optimise task difficulty when developing agility. I have discussed developing agility previously here. And below are some examples of simplified agility tasks, with varying levels of representativeness, that maintain the relevant information so players can develop strong perception-action couplings:

A few examples of gamespeed:

Winger getting the ball and stepping inside, then optimising her speed to create an option for a pass.

Initial ball carrier optimises speed to create 2v1 scenario to draw defender and free winger. The winger again optimises speed to allow him to step inside defender.

Try scorer never runs at max velocity. Controls her initial Acceleration through the defensive line so she can manouvre her way though the defenders. She the optimises her speed to allow for a sharper cut to beat the last defender.

*manouvreability = COD ability that requires maintaining velocity (often in a curvelinear fashion) or transition from one movement to another (side-shuffle to run etc.). One of the best displays of manouvreability I have seen is this try below:


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