Testing agility/change of direction in football

Before we start to describe tests which investigate agility, we would like elaborate on both terms (agility vs. Change Of Direction (COD)) to get a clear understanding when we talk about one or the other.


Agility vs. Change of direction

From a sport science perspective there seems to be a debate about the definition of agility (1) - see references below and somehow for change of direction as well.


“Quickness” and “cutting” are words that were also be found in the literature (1) with regard to agility and change of direction. Therefore we feel we need to define the two terms first before we go into testing.


The difference between the two was seen that change of direction (pre-planned) was thought to be part of agility.


Agility itself on the other hand incorporates perceptual and decision-making processes and can be seen as a response to a stimulus and therefore as an open skill (and not pre-planned) (2).

Why is that important?

Depending on the goal, testing and training (for agility) needs to incorporate the two mentioned things (perception and decision-making), or not (for COD).



Sheppard and Young (1) further divided perceptual and decision-making factors:


Agility in football


As it can be observed ALL 4 points are very important in football.

  1. Visual scanning - Non-scientific performance reviews from FIFA world cup showed that players consistently scan the ball, players and their environment ~ 2-3 times every second
  2. Knowledge of situation - should increase with “experience” or training hours and therefore players can react accordingly
  3. Pattern recognition - seems to be more important in 1 vs. 1 and might help in decision making with regard to a stimulus
  4. Anticipation - especially important when judging ball trajectory, ball speed and also movement of players


Testing for agility

Testing for agility is (more) “complicated” (from a sport science perspective), as it require technical support (contact mat, lights, video support, timing gates) and strict guidelines. Therefore only a few TRUE agility tests exist. Furthermore there is no agility tests specifically designed for football.

However, we have searched the literature to present agility tests (and their possible application in football).

Generally, all tests assess the players’ ability to react correctly and as fast as possible to a stimulus (3).


Stimuli were given by:


       a)    A coach (4-6)
       b)    Flashing lights (7)
       c)    Video (8, 9)



1. Sheppard, J. M., and Young, W.B. Agility literature review: Classifications, training and testing. J.

Sports. Sci. 24(9): 919-932, 2000.

2. Brughelli, M., et al. Understanding change of direction ability in sport: A review of resistance training

studies. Sports. Med. 38(12): 1045-1063, 2008.

3. Chelladurai, P., M. S. Yuhasz and R. Sipura. The reactive agility test. Percept. Mot. Skills. 44(3c):

1319-1324, 1977.

4. Sheppard, J. M., Young, W.B., Doyle, T.L., Sheppard, T.A., and Newton, R.U. An evaluation of a new test

of reactive agility and its relationship to sprint speed and change of direction speed. J. Sci. Med. Sports. 9: 342-349, 2006.

5. Gabbett, T. J., J. N. Kelly and J. M. Sheppard. Speed, change of direction speed, and reactive agility of

rugby league players. J. Strength. Cond. Res. 22(1): 174-81, 2008,.

6. Gabbett, T. and D. Benton. Reactive agility of rugby league players. J. Sci. Med. Sport. 12(1): 212-4,


7. Green, B. S., C. Blake and B. M. Caulfield. A valid field test protocol of linear speed and agility in rugby

union. J. Strength. Cond. Res. 25(5): 1256-1262, 2011.

8. Farrow, D., Young, W., & Bruce, L. The development of a test of reactive agility for netball: A new

methodology. J. Sci. Med. Sports. 8(1): 52-60, 2005.

9. Henry, G., et al. Validity of a reactive agility test for Australian football. Int. J. Sports. Physiol. Perform.

6(4): 534-45, 2011.


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