What is SAQ? Basketball Success through Movement Enhancement.

Blinding top speed….. Rapid change in acceleration….Explosive lateral movement….Lightening fast response. These are the qualities that the top basketball players possess. It separates the best from the rest. But whether it is basketball, football, soccer, tennis, rugby, or track and field:

Lateral, Linear, or Vertical Movements skills make a Champion.

It is known as SAQ (Speed, Agility, and Quickness).

SAQ is rapidly becoming one of the most important segments of successful training/conditioning for top athletes, trainers, and sport franchises. Previously, great demonstration of these skills was attributed to the genetic gifts the performers possessed. While it is true that some athletes are born more gifted than others, natural genetics is only part of the formula. Directed training and nurturing is the rest, through years of experimentation and implementation, training methods for SAQ have been developed. The programming is now coming of age.

SAQ programming is a process focused on enhancing the athlete’s capability to utilize their genetic gifts and reap the benefits of traditional training. It bridges the gap between raw strength and explosive movements. SAQ builds upon the conditioning base of previous training. The major distinction between SAQ and traditional training is the emphasis on the neuro-muscular system. In other words, teaching the brain and the body teamwork.

All skilled body movements are controlled by an individual’s brain. In order for skilled movement to occur, the brain must send the muscles the appropriate signals. This means activating the right nerves at the right time. Breakdowns in this process result in uncoordinated or ineffective movement. Therefore, training programs must devote time to developing neurological firing patterns. SAQ programming concentrates on improving the individual’s neuro-muscular system so that the initial movement, whether it is lateral, linear or vertical, is automatic, explosive, and precise. For example, a point guard moving rapidly to his or her left in an efficient manner to stop a defender from penetrating.


The specific drills can be done with easy to use equipment such as mini-hurdles, quickfoot ladders, balance boards, medicine balls and such. The drills must concentrate on foot work timing, hand-eye coordination, power, technique and acceleration in a variety of directions and environments. This improves the athlete’s movements required for her for basketball. The programming also needs to include unique practice sessions designed to maximize the effects of SAQ drills and minimize injury. The results are an athlete who is better prepared for the demands of her sport, position, and environment.

SAQ can be incorporated and focused on during the off season, in season and post season programs.  Each phase is very important to the player’s training regimin to enhance the sport specific needs of the athlete. SAQ encompasses explosive training, resistance training, hand-eye coordination, quick-hand instruction, balance, perception, multi-directional movement, acceleration, and velocity training. These training methods improve physical performance in all sports through better preparation of the athlete for the demands of competition.

Important facts to remember while training are the knowledge to teach and work with the athletes in a safe environment and not just toss the equipment out and mimic some drills you have seen, along with, “more is not always better”.  Many times the “toys” seem very interesting and players end up getting injured rather that reaping the benefits of the training.  With proper body position and foot contacts, the athletes will get better with each workout!

Below are some guidelines that have worked in training the high school, collegiate and professional players.

The following is a sample program in content and format to start your players on the path to becoming better athletes. This program uses various training tools; floor ladders, flexi cords and harnesses, plyometric boxes, hand weights, hurdles, a variety of balls, and weighted training vests.  Many “tools” can be substituted to enhance the training and get the desired results.

Sample Program:

Neuromuscular/Speed, Agility, Quickness (SAQ)

Sample Beginning Program 4-6 weeks (each training day should consist of Dynamic Flexibility, linear or lateral foot speed drills, change of direction and a few explosive drills)

3 days a week, 1 –1.5 hours per day

Dynamic Flexibility and Warm-ups:  Stretches with movement mixing in static stretching which allows the players to get their muscles warmed up and firing like they will once they step on the floor; 15-20 min.

Change of Direction:  cone drills both linear and lateral with multiple changes; 15-20 min.

Lift Mechanics:  Mini-hurdles/micro-hurdles, linear and lateral drills, along with vertical hops and jumps; 15-30 mins.

Running Technique Drills:  lateral slides, turn runs, backpedal; 15-20 mins.

Speed and Explosion:  running technique drill, speed drills (runs/skips/strides) and max speed work, power metrics (jumps and hops); 15-20 mins.

Foot Firing Drills:  ladders linear and lateral; 15-30 mins.

* Note: Programs may be adjusted to emphasize linear, lateral or vertical formats on any day, but must include some work in several of the above to continue reinforcement and progression in a comprehensive pattern. These programs should be implemented and instructed by someone knowledgeable and qualified.