How to Run the Fastest Pro Shuttle
Prior to becoming a college football player, I attended many recruiting combines and skill camps as an up-and-coming athlete. Both in high school and college, our off-season conditioning programs included many pro shuttle runs. Now, as a high school football coach, and a coach for “Skill Development University,” we also incorporate many shuttles into our programming. I also work various college football skill camps in the summer, and they all include the pro shuttle run. If you watch the NFL combine they also run the shuttle. So, I thought I would break down the shuttle, and offer tips to athletes on ways to cut your time down, and get out of each leg faster. As well as from a coach’s perspective, to show what we’re looking for from an athlete, and indicators of an explosive player.
First, the ultimate goal of the pro shuttle run is a fast time. In terms of a prospective college football player, your time could be the difference between receiving an offer or not, and as a prospective pro football player, your time could be the difference between a team signing you to a contract or not.
The essence of every sport, not just football, can be broken down into three simple terms: Acceleration, Deceleration, and Change of Direction. The ability to do these three things will determine your ability to perform in your sport. This is why the pro shuttle is such a popular drill. The shuttle demonstrates the ability to do all three in one drill.
From an athlete’s perspective, let’s dig in on ways to cut your time down. First, it starts with a good stance and the right mindset. Your starting stance should be narrow so you’re ready to change direction. I like to start with my feet directly under my hips and shoulders. Dig the balls of your feet into the turf which creates an inward bowing at the knees. Official shuttle runs require you to start from a 3-point stance. So, put the hand down that’s closest to the cone you’re headed to first. Pull that off-hand arm up high and get ready to rip it across your body to pull yourself and create momentum to that first cone.
Now that we’re in a good starting position, let’s go over some mindset cues. First, some of the best advice I ever heard was from my Defensive Backs coach in college. Often athletes hear, “we gotta play fast, be fast” and they get in a panic and rush things because they just want to be fast. Well you’re right, we do want to be fast. But my DB’s coach would say “smooth is fast baby!” The best way to be fast, is to be smooth. Don’t rush things and don’t be in a state of panic. Breathe, relax, and visualize running a smooth shuttle. When you get in a state of panic, you’re gonna get ahead of yourself and create false steps and essentially add seconds to your time. Just be smooth!
Next, think about the physics of how we change direction. We change direction from the ball of the foot. In order for me to go right, I have to dig the ball of my left foot into the ground, and push the ground to the left. In order for me to go forward, I have to dig the ball of my foot into the ground and push the ground behind me. So, before you start, dig the balls of your feet into the turf, get ready to push the ground away, and basically leap out of the gate. Before you start, remind yourself to push the ground away to get out of each leg of the shuttle.
Now let’s get moving. If I’m going right first, I need my right hand down, and my left hand high in the air. Once you start, push the ground away with the left foot and rip the left hand across your body to help pull your body to that cone, and create momentum.
Now that we’re moving, eliminate choppy steps! Instead, stride through each leg of the shuttle. Too often do athletes chop their feet when they begin breaking down to touch the line of the cone. Choppy steps do nothing but add seconds to your time. You need to gallop and reach on each leg of the shuttle. Instead of using choppy steps to break down to the cone, use long strides and sink your hips as you begin approaching the cone. Once you approach the cone, you need to reach for the line with your hand. Your feet should not touch the line the cone is on. Again, you’re wasting valuable time! So, lengthen the strides, sink the hips as you approach the cone, and reach for the line with your hand.
Once you’ve touched the line, dig that foot into the ground, push the ground away to get out, and get back to top speed. Again, long strides to the next cone, sink your hips as you approach the cone, reach for the line, push the ground away, and sprint through to finish.
From a coach’s perspective, the first thing I’m looking for from an athlete in the shuttle is the ability to perform those three terms I described earlier. How well can an athlete accelerate and burst out of each leg of the shuttle, how well can they decelerate and sink their hips to each leg of the shuttle, and how well can an athlete change direction from each leg of the shuttle. Those three terms are the essence of every sport when you break it down.
Finally, what I’m looking for is the attention to detail an athlete shows in the shuttle. Showing good technique in the shuttle shows you care about your craft. This shows that you put the time in to make yourself better and improve your game. It really bugs me when I’m coaching a college recruiting camp and athletes show up looking like they’ve never done a shuttle run before. Every single camp and combine I’ve attended both as an athlete, and now as a coach do the shuttle run. So, if you know this, prepare for it! Be ready to set yourself apart to the coaches. Show us that you’ve put the time in, and you do the little things to prepare yourself as athlete that are required to build championship teams.
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