GAINcast Episode 227: Game speed (with Dean Benton)

Developing faster athletes for team sports doesn’t just mean training them like sprinters. Both sports require fast athletes, but in completely different contexts. Like anything, developing speed in a new context comes down to how you train and Dean Benton has spent his career trying to unlock the methods that can make his teams play faster. On this week’s GAINcast he joins us to discuss the significance of speed, how he defines the key elements of team speed, and his approach to developing game speed.

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Notes and quotes

Benton is the Head of Athletic Performance for Rugby Australia, where he oversees the athletic performance and sports science elements of the national high performance plan across all of Australia’s national teams, Super Rugby and Academy programs. Prior to joining Rugby Australia Benton worked for a variety of rugby clubs and teams including England Rugby, Melbourne Storm, Brumbies Rugby, Brisbane Broncos, and the Leicester Tigers. He also has worked with athletics and other sports while coaching at the Australian Institute of Sport and Queensland Academy of Sport.

  • 0:00 – Introduction.
  • 6:45 – Benton’s evolving view of the significance of team speed: “Speed in team sports is more than just being fast, it is being well timed and being on time. It is not just the speed you can generate from traditional training environment, it’s how you apply it in a team sport setting.”
  • 9:45 – The role of endurance in speed: “Speed is the ultimate goal that distinguishes teams. Endurance is just a basis for that. It gives you the work capacity for more specific qualities. Endurance is a means to an end, you should move beyond that quite quickly.”
  • 11:45 – Injuries: “If you skew too much towards the endurance end of the spectrum it doesn’t lend itself to good running mechanics and preparing for the game. It develops rugby sessions that are continuous and just one pace.”
  • 13:30 – Bridging the gap between physical preparation with game training: “There’s always a place for training speed individually, but it can be trained in a team sense as well. If you are not training it a team/collective sense, it won’t magically appear on game day. In a team setting it comes down to manipulating work:rest ratios.”
  • 15:00 – Speed limiting factors and pressuring skills with speed: “I look at how fast the big guys can run over 10m, and then I look at how much they can use. It is easy to get seduce into good 10m times, but our job is not done until we see transfer on the field. If they aren’t taking that 10m time into a carry, then you have to investigate.” “It is easy to make players tired and put them under duress to produce errors. But combining running skills and ball skills and creating an environment where they have to execute skills at speed is much more difficult.”
  • 18:30 – Experiences with top teams and examples of using team sessions to explore top end speed.
  • 24:00 – Polarizing team training sessions.
  • 26:30 – Adjusting work:rest rations in training and uses of rest periods: “Once players realize they will get more rest, they will bring a lot more intent in each rep. It’s about trust.”
  • 29:30 – Defining peak game intensity: “Metrics such as meters/minute do not distinguish teams. It is the speed and acceleration metrics the distinguish teams.”
  • 33:45 – Overcoming the fear of speed training and finding a collective approach.

To hear more about these topics you can listen to the full episode above. If you like what you hear on the GAINcast, don’t forget to give us a review and subscribe on iTunes.

Further reading

The following links were referenced in the podcast or provide some additional reading material on the topic: