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How to develop the physical condition of your team

Brian Mackenzie explains the components of fitness and how to develop the level of agility.

One of the misconceptions in the sports world is that a sports person gets in shape by just playing or taking part in their chosen sport. If a stationary level of performance, and consistent ability in executing a few limited skills, is your goal then engaging only in your sport will keep you there. However, if you want the utmost efficiency, consistent improvement, and balanced abilities sportsmen, and women must participate in year-round conditioning programs. The bottom line in sports conditioning and fitness training is stress, not mental stress, but adaptive body stress. Sportsmen and women must put their bodies under a certain amount of stress to increase physical capabilities.

Definition of Fitness

Exercise scientists have identified nine elements that comprise the definition of fitness. The following lists each of the nine elements and an example of how they are used:

  • Strength - the extent to which muscles can exert force by contracting against resistance (holding or restraining an object or person)
  • Power - the ability to exert maximum muscular contraction instantly in an explosive burst of movements (Jumping or sprint starting)
  • Agility - the ability to perform a series of explosive power movements in rapid succession in opposing directions (Zig Zag running or cutting movements)
  • Balance - the ability to control the body's position, either stationary (e.g. a handstand) or while moving (e.g. a gymnastics floor exercise program)
  • Flexibility - the ability to achieve an extended range of motion without being impeded by excess tissue, i.e. fat or muscle (Executing a leg split)
  • Local Muscle Endurance - a single muscle's ability to perform sustained work (Rowing or cycling)
  • Cardiovascular Endurance - the heart's ability to deliver blood to working muscles and their ability to use it (Running long distances)
  • Strength Endurance - a muscle's ability to perform a maximum contraction time after time (Continuous explosive rebounding through an entire basketball game)
  • Coordination - the ability to integrate the above-listed components so that effective movements are achieved

Of all the nine elements of fitness, the cardiac respiratory qualities are the most important to develop because they enhance all the other components of the conditioning equation.

Physical and Motor Fitness

Physical fitness refers to the capacity of an athlete to meet the varied physical demands of their sport without reducing the athlete to a fatigued state. The components of physical fitness are Strength, Endurance, Speed, Flexibility, and Body Composition. Motor Fitness refers to the ability of an athlete to perform successfully in their sport.

The components of motor fitness are Agility, Balance, Coordination, Power, and Reaction Time. Your role as the coach is therefore to:

  • identify the most important components for success in your athlete's sport or event
  • evaluate your athlete's current status for each of these components
  • design athlete-specific conditioning and training programs that enhance these components


In many sports, agility is an important component required of your athletes. Agility is the ability to change the direction of the body efficiently and effectively and to achieve this, they require a combination of:

  • Balance - the ability to maintain equilibrium when stationary or moving (i.e. not to fall over) through the coordinated actions of our sensory functions (eyes, ears, and the proprioceptive organs in our joints)
  • Static Balance - ability to retain the centre of mass above the base of support
  • Dynamic Balance - balance under changing conditions of body movement
  • Speed - the ability to move all or part of the body quickly
  • Strength - the ability of a muscle or muscle group to overcome a resistance
  • Coordination - the ability to control the movement of the body in cooperation with the body's sensory functions, e.g. catching a ball (ball, hand and eye coordination)

We can improve the athlete's agility by improving the components of agility (listed above) and practicing the movements in training.

There are several tests a coach can use to measure an athlete's agility. They include:

These tests, used as part of a training session, will help develop an athlete's agility.

Fast Feet Drills

The following drills can be used to develop thge quickness of the feet.

  • Quick feet drill
    • From a jog, increase your stride rate such that you take as many steps as possible in a 10 metre interval. Jog for 10-metres and repeat. Emphasis on a quick turnover with the legs moving in front of the body.
  • Down and offs
    • From a high knee position, the emphasis is to decrease your foot/ground contact time by hitting the ground with the ball of the foot and getting off as quickly as possible. In turn, the effort on the ground should bounce your leg up into the high knee position. Ten down and offs make a set
  • Stick Drill
    • Twenty sticks (18 to 24 inches in length) are placed 18 inches apart on the ground. Sprint through the sticks as fast as possible, touching one foot on the ground between each. Emphasis on a high knee lift and quick ground contact
  • Rat-a-tats
    • Knees slightly bent - on your toes at all times - running on the spot bringing the toes no more than 2 or 3 centimetres off the ground - emphasis on speed of movement. Duration 30 seconds

Article Reference

This article first appeared in:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2003) Here is how to develop the physical condition of your team. Brian Mackenzie's Successful Coaching, (ISSN 1745-7513/ 1 / May ), p. 4-5

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2003) How to develop the physical condition of your team [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Brian Mackenzie is a British Athletics level 4 performance coach and a coach tutor/assessor. He has been coaching sprint, middle distance, and combined event athletes for the past 30+ years and has 45+ years of experience as an endurance athlete.