What Determines "Sport-Specificity"?

We hear this term all the time in our industry: "sport-specific". This is a very broad term that can be interpreted many different ways through a wide audience. To some, they think sport-specific means performing a movement with an implement from their respective sport. To others, they think sport specific means using exercise to enhance an athletic skill.

Read that last sentence again...

Using exercise to enhance an athletic skill. BINGO! This is the true definition of sport-specific.

Often times, people get athletic qualities confused with athletic skills. Our job as Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists is to enhance an athletic skill by manipulating certain athletic qualities that the athlete possesses.

Now that we better understand the definition of the term sport-specific, let's dive deeper into each specific category to develop athletic qualities.


These are where we receive this type of questions:

- "My daughter struggles getting around the defender, are there any specific agility drills to help?"

- "My son doesn't have the greatest first step when stealing a base, would we be able to show him the proper way to start his sprint?"

We LOVE getting kids faster. We could talk about the entire of myth that you can't teach speed, but let's save that for another post.

What we do know is that there are specific actions that take place during the sprint, and there are multiple branches of speed development that we use here at ISP:

- Acceleration

- Deceleration

- Top Speed

- Lateral Direction

- Open/Closed Change of Direction

- Reactionary Speed

Within these same parameters, we use several training methods in our speed development for athletes. During our entire evaluation process, we determine what "bucket" needs to be filled the most. These buckets can be, but are not limited to:

  • Increasing stride length

  • Decreasing ground contact time

  • Enhancing foot strike

Once we determine what the athlete needs the most, we then evaluate what sport they play and the position that they play. Most athletes spend their time in short bursts of acceleration followed by a deceleration and re-acceleration period, while some athletes stay in the acceleration phase for most of their duration of movement.

As you can see pictured to the left and above, this is the simplest way to visualize how we enhance the quality of acceleration, deceleration, etc. to further enhance the athletic skill of speed.

As long as we use the verbiage that the athlete is accustomed to (steal a base, make a cut, get around the cage, etc.) that is how we can make a sprinting drill as specific for them as possible!

Again, we always go back to that evaluation process: what did we find? What sport and position do they play? How long do they stay in acceleration or top speed? Once we determine the individual needs, and we create a connection to the sport, this is when the athlete will further enhance their qualities needed in order to express the skill they desire.

Strength and Power