Developing Repeat Sprint Ability for Athletes

USP - Developing repeat sprint ability for athletes

Anybody that has watched any team field based sport would have witnessed stunning displays of repeat sprint ability…you know you see an AFL player sprint down and tackle an opposition player, get up, sprint again and lay another tackle, then pick up the ball and accelerate away….

Gabbett (2008) defined a repeat sprint as a minimum of three sprints, with recovery of less than 21 seconds between sprints (3).

Anyone who has ever has ever experienced consecutive all out sprints with minimal rest can attest to how physically demanding that is.

The elite make it look easy!!!

Take a look at Sydney Swans Dan Hannebery run from Half back to half forward to get on the end of it!

The ability to repeat speed is a highly desired trait amongst recruiting scouts and elite teams and there is a correlation between the number of high intensity sprints and enhanced playing performance!!

So how do we test it?

Previously, The AFL Draft Camp Repeat Sprint Ability Protocol utilised 6 x 30m sprints with 20 seconds rest between reps.

The total sprint time is calculated which was between 24.8 and 25.5 seconds for the top 10 at The AFL Draft Camp (1).

As a coach we are interested in the fatigue index (FI) or the percentage drop off from the initial 30m sprint time to the last 30m sprint time (2).

If there is less than 5% drop off between reps then the focus is generally on developing developing speed qualities (2).

If the drop off is greater than 5% between sprints the focus tends to lean towards developing aerobic qualities (2).

Traditional coaching methods would have athletes focus exclusively on either speed qualities or aerobic qualities without the inclusion of the ball.

Traditional conditioning methods may develop repeat sprint ability but fail to adequately develop any technical sporting skill component that is required by athletes competing in field based sports.

They say the mark of a great coach is one that can combine skills, game sense ability and fitness into their training drills. It is our experience these drills have better transference onto the sporting arena than traditional means of conditioning!

Here’s a drill we utilise with our athletes called Gazzas drill.

The drill develops all physical qualities such as speed, acceleration, deceleration, agility, repeat sprint ability (anaerobic power) as well as game specific body contact, body positioning and below knees handling skills under pressure.

To find more of these drills check out the Speed, Agility, Quickness DVD for Athletes or enrol in the AFL Easter School Holiday Clinic.

All the best,

Joey Hayes


1. AFL Draft Camp Results 2008.

2. Young, K. Queensland Academy of Sport. Personal Communication. 2009.

3. Gabbett, T. Mulvey, M. Time-Motion Analysis of Small-Sided Training Games and Competition in Elite Women Soccer Players.  Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: March 2008 – Volume 22 – Issue 2 – pp 543-552.