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Why I Never Do Sprints At The End of Practice

I never have athletes sprint at the end of practice anymore and I’ll tell you why.

Not long ago I started thinking more about what we typically have done as coaches.

At the end of a lacrosse practice, it’s common for coaches to have their athletes run sprints.

The more I thought about it, the more it became obvious that it’s a bad idea.

As with so many things, timing is everything.

Before we get started, consider this.

What is the purpose of sprinting at the end of a practice?

If you’re the coach, you need to be able to clearly answer that question because your reason may change “the how” and “the when” you have your athletes do sprints.

So, why is sprinting done at the end?

  • To increase speed
  • To improve “conditioning”
  • To punish your athletes for a bad practice (this is NOT a good reason but sometimes this is why sprints are done at the end)
  • Other reason- maybe to promote healthy competition

Let’s take a look at these one by one.

WHY SPRINT AT THE END?

If sprinting is done to increase speed, then sprinting at the end of practice doesn’t make sense.

I’m going to spend more time on this in just a minute.

So why do we do it at the end?

Because it’s what we’ve always done – which is not a good reason.

TO IMPROVE CONDITIONING

If sprinting is done to improve conditioning, sprints should not be maximal effort sprints at the end of practice. If you want to improve conditioning and do this at the end of practice, it would be better to have athletes perform sub-maximal effort runs for a longer distance.

Why? Because athletes are already too fatigued for max-effort runs (therefore sub-max effort is a better option).

If conditioning is the true goal for running at the end, then tempo runs and/or long distance sub-max runs are a good means of improving endurance and the capacity to run more.

AS PUNISHMENT?

If sprinting is done as a punishment for a bad practice, we probably need to re-think this one.

It is now my opinion that this is not a good way to end a practice even if you (the coach) feel your team had a bad practice.

Exercise as punishment is generally not a good idea.

Although sprinting, running, and such can be used for disciplinary reasons – we really need to consider when, how, etc.

If sprinting is done to promote competition, do sprints earlier in the practice.

WHY EARLIER IS BETTER

If the main goal of having athletes run sprints is to increase speed (and this is truly the reason to run sprints, yes?) then running sprints at the end of practice does not make sense at all.

Why?

The fatigue factor.

Maximal-effort sprinting is highly physically demanding. If you’re going to run a true sprint, then running full-out at the end of practice is not really possible because athletes are already fatigued from the practice. Not to mention that by having athletes attempt to run full effort in a fatigued state is a risk for injury (ex. hamstring pull).

I’m not the only one who feels this way. Performance coach Jace Derwin C.S.C.S. of Volt Athletics has voiced his thoughts on this, as well. He advocates for early application of sprint work in practice.

If running at the end is not best, then when is the optimal time to run max-effort sprints? Either at the beginning of practice after the dynamic warm-up or at about the mid-point of the practice session. I’ve had athletes on several occasions run sprints in the first segment of a practice before a water break. In my experience, this has gone very well and sprint performance is much better than at the end.

So, if we are talking about doing real sprints, max-effort short sprints, then earlier is better because the athletes are more fresh. Sprinting is not only demanding, but it is also very technical. Technique matters if we really want our athletes to run faster and if they’re gassed, the technical aspects will be compromised even more.

Why would we have athletes attempt to perform something so physically demanding and technical at the end of a practice when they are exhausted?

If you have a good answer to that, please let me know.

LET’S SUM THIS UP

Top strength coach Mike Boyle calls sprints at end of practice “dumb stuff that’s done in football” and strongly believes that sprinting is very valuable for field athletes during practice, just not at the end when they are fatigued.

I think coaches do this because it’s what they always done.

But that is not a good reason why.

To summarize why sprints are not the best option to do at the end of a practice, it comes down to this:

  • Fatigue factor – athletes are too fatigued to perform max-effort sprints
  • Good technique – true sprinting deserves good technique, which will be more difficult for athletes at the end of a practice
  • Injury risk – this should go without saying – rule #1 is always “do no harm”

I have scoured online looking for research to support the theory of “timing of sprints during practice.” To my knowledge, there is no research at this point. It seems that sprinting at the end is one of those things that is done because it’s always been done that way. Unfortunately, that’s not a good enough reason.

Is sprinting at the end a bad idea?

I now believe it is.

I challenge you to reconsider when sprints are incorporated for the simple reasons of increasing sports performance and minimizing risk for injury.


Interested in learning about true speed training for sports performance?

Then make sure you join our community below to learn more and find out about speed clinics dedicated to lacrosse athletes.

Coach Scott

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