Sprint training isn’t something I spend a lot of time on with my athletes. I spend more time in the gym correcting imbalances and getting the athletes strong. I feel this is the biggest bang for your buck when time is restricted as they get a lot of speed and agility work from the demands of their sport anyway. Their biggest limiting factor tends to be imbalances and lack of strength. If I were to perform more sprint sessions with my athletes then these are some general guidelines I follow.
When training for pure speed, it is important to focus on the quality of movements performed during the session and not just the quantity. You will see sessions performed where guys are just going through the motions with no attention to the details of each drill. This is pointless and you are just accumulating fatigue. You want to make sure each rep of each set is perfect. Training is about trying to ingrain the correct movement pattern into the brain so that when it comes time to compete and when you are under fatigue those are the movements you naturally resort to. If you perform them sloppy at each session then when you are under fatigue, how do you expect to maintain technique and speed?
Another thing to consider is how often you perform full speed or near full speed sprints and the distances you should cover. Personally for most field athletes I would keep the distances relatively short, working mostly on starts and maintaining speed over 30 to 60m max. If they are fast in the first few steps then they can beat defenders and accelerate away from them and if they can maintain that speed for 30 to 60m then generally they finish off and score points.
After each sprint session you must focus on complete recovery. The central nervous system (CNS) is heavily taxed when performing all out efforts so to keep the quality you must recover not only between drills and sprints but also between sessions. You will learn much better when you are fresh and you will also feel it in your performance feeling a much better flow in your technique then if you done it fatigued. Speed work should only be done twice a week in my opinion with about 72 hours rest between sessions.
During a sprint workout you have to know when to call it a day. It is the same as in the gym. We call this the critical drop off point. When the quality begins to deteriorate it is time to stop the speed work and move on to something else or go home. As they say garbage work equals garbage results. More is not always better.
When sprinting, it is also important to try and stay relaxed. Personally I find this very difficult but you should try to keep the face and shoulders relaxed and maintain correct arm action. They are the biggest tips I think most people, especially athletes get wrong. Leg turnover is generally quite good but the arm action is tough to master and needs to be focused on a lot during your drills and tempo runs.
This is far from an exhaustive list of tips but hopefully it sparks some ideas on how you can best implement sprint sessions into your program if you desire to.
The Myth of Discipline by Charles Poliquin is one of his most read and most shared articles. For me, this article helped explain to myself and other people something I had known for a long time but hadn't been able to put into words. For example, when I was a rugby league player people would often say "oh you are so disciplined" because I would train so hard and so often, and in the last few years my diet was really good, I would either pack my food or go home to eat so I could have the exact amount and type of food I needed. I would train of a morning, go to work, come home do another session, get to training early and do some personal skills, and then do our regular session. This was my life for many years. I would always say I wasn't that disciplined. To me this wasn't hard work. I loved what I was doing, I loved playing rugby league and I loved pushing myself as hard as possible to see how good I could get. It was the one place in the world where I felt confident and could switch off from everything else and it was the only thing I had ever wanted to do with my life.
This is exactly what Charles speaks about in his article. He opens with "There is no such thing as discipline. There is only love. Love is the most powerful creative force in the universe. You are the result of what you love most."
The more I trained, ate well, and began living with more focus on what I loved the more confident I became within myself. I had always been very shy and doubted myself massively. I still do but in comparison to where I was, I am now much more confident and don't really care too much about what others think of me anymore. Obviously I don't want to be disliked, but I am more satisfied with the way I live my life and the choices I make so I am not trying to get the approval of others.
Living this way makes life much more enjoyable and stress free. It is also much easier than trying to grind away doing things you hate day in and day out. I done this with many jobs, labouring away just to get some money in. It wasn't that bad and actually taught me some really good work ethic, especially the scaffolding I done for many years. Doing what I do now as a strength coach and coach, is a passion of mine and something I would do whether or not I could get an income out of it. I love it and I never really feel like it is work. It is enjoyable watching our clients progress and seeing them grow personally as well. The old saying "do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life", to me is true.
Read Charles' article. It will either help you understand why you do what you do much more clearly or it may give you some ideas and reasons to go and do what you truly love to do.