Part 3: Change of direction
Combining acceleration and deceleration into a full cut requires adding two 90-degree direction changes. It’s best to teach these individually so athletes can solidify each movement and position. First teach acceleration at a 90-degree angle, then deceleration into a 90-degree angle, then add them together.
The deceleration and acceleration both pivot around an athletic stance with your weight on your lead leg. Stress form and position. If you aren’t loading into your glutes you’re not maximizing your speed. And to reiterate, avoid having your knees cave in.
Exercise 1: Crossover step
Get into an athletic stance, then lean your weight onto your right leg, bringing your arms into running position (right arm back, left arm forward). Load into the glute similarly to a crouch start, and then push off to your right. After a few reps, switch to the left side. Cueing “drag your back toe along the ground” can help athletes fully extend that leg.
Exercise 2: 90-degree start
Same as the crossover step, but continue into a sprint. Shoulders should be square to the direction of movement by the second step, hips by the third.
Exercise 3: 90-degree deceleration
Same as choppy steps from the deceleration phase, but the players should be at a right angle by the time they’ve stopped. In the ending position, their weight is on their back leg (left leg if facing left). That back leg will have a tendency to let the knee cave in. Clearly, we don’t want that.
Exercise 4: 180-degree change of direction
Put it all together. It’s best to give a few reps with a short pause between the deceleration and accelerations, so that athletes can correct their position and make sure they are loading into their glutes. It is also helpful to add the pause back into occasional reps in the future so you can quickly check form.
A comprehensive cutting technique curriculum is going to look different for every team. If you coach a fairly athletic club team that only practices a few times a season, you might take part of one practice to teach these steps and make small adjustments to their technique. If you teach a younger team that meets multiple times a week, you can spread it out over a few sessions. The best approach is to be responsive to your athletes, and see if they’re accomplishing their current step before they move on.