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Background: Authors in their contribution point to the differences in the methods of measurement of agility in the practice. Based on the experience of coaches as well as on their own experience have come to the conclusion that the Illinois Agility Test, which has long been used for the testing of agility in fact does not measure perception abilities and decision-making processes, since motor activity performed during the testing procedure represents a closed skill, where the only task of the tested person is to accelerate, decelerate and change the direction of running, while the task is known in advance. On the contrary, some authors recommend the testing of agility using apparatuses measuring selective reaction, such as Fitro Agility Check. Objective: The aim of the research was to find out differences in the performance of players from the point of view of sport specialization and also to assess the relationship between the performance of players in two agility tests (Illinois Agility Test, measuring the ability of simple reaction, acceleration, deceleration and changes of movement direction, as well as Fitro Agility Check, measuring the above mentioned processes plus the ones of perception and decision-making). Methods: The sample comprised basketball (G1), volleyball (G2) and soccer (G3) players (N = 55 boys, Mage = 15.78 years, age range = 14-17 years) from sport clubs in Slovakia. Illinois Agility Test (IAT) was used for testing acceleration and deceleration speed, simple reaction as well as changes of direction. Time of the trial was recorded by Microgate photocells. Fitro Agility Check (FAC) was used for the testing of reactive agility. Differences between independent groups were assessed using Kruskal-Wallis H test, or Mann-Whitney U test. Non-parametric Spearman correlation coefficient was used for detecting whether any correlation between the two variables exists (results in FAC vs IAT). Results: The greatest differences were found between the performances of players in IAT, on the contrary in the test FAC we found agreement in performances of players of different specializations. The value of statistical significance (p = .774) point to the non-existence of a relationship between the performance in IAT vs FAC and stress fundamental difference between both variables. Conclusions: This study provides evidence supporting the experience of coaches that when developing agility it is inevitable to transfer from performing exercises with the change of direction planned in advance realized in static conditions onto the practice of open skills, in which reaction to the changing conditions of the match is combined with anticipation of the resulting optimum solution of the given situation.
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in the shortest possible time, similarly to cyclic speed,
however, without defining the direction of movement
(Harman & Garhammer, 2008). In fact, this issue is
much more complex, since speed of movement is not
constant during the whole length of trajectory of move-
ment and thus it can be divided into several phases:
acceleration, maintaining maximum speed and decel-
eration (Plisk, 2008). Agility is most frequently defined
as a fast change of direction of movement (Altug, Altug,
& Altug, 1987). It can adopt various abilities started
from simple frequency of leg movement at running up
to a fast change of running direction. Agility comprises
a speed component, which is not the most significant
Introduction
Speed abilities in sport games represent a complex of
psychomotor abilities (Verkhoshansky, 1996) involv-
ing movement of the body as fast as possible. Agility,
however, represents another dimension, which is the
change of movement direction (running). Speed abili-
ties are usually defined as movement of an object (ath-
lete’s body) in an effort to cover the specified distance
* Address for correspondence: Jaromír Šimonek, Department
of Physical Education and Sport, Faculty of Education, Con-
stantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Tr. A. Hlinku 1,
949 74 Nitra, Slovakia. E-mail: jsimonek@ukf.sk
Differences in pre-planned agility and reactive agility performance in sport games
Jaromír Šimonek, Pavol Horička, and Ján Hianik
Faculty of Education, Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Nitra, Slovakia
Copyright: © 2016 J. Šimonek et al. This is an open access article licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Background: Authors in their contribution point to the differences in the methods of measurement of agility in the
practice. Based on the experience of coaches as well as on their own experience have come to the conclusion that the
Illinois Agility Test, which has long been used for the testing of agility in fact does not measure perception abilities
and decision-making processes, since motor activity performed during the testing procedure represents a closed skill,
where the only task of the tested person is to accelerate, decelerate and change the direction of running, while the task
is known in advance. On the contrary, some authors recommend the testing of agility using apparatuses measuring
selective reaction, such as Fitro Agility Check. Objective: The aim of the research was to find out differences in the
performance of players from the point of view of sport specialization and also to assess the relationship between the
performance of players in two agility tests (Illinois Agility Test, measuring the ability of simple reaction, acceleration,
deceleration and changes of movement direction, as well as Fitro Agility Check, measuring the above mentioned
processes plus the ones of perception and decision-making). Methods: The sample comprised basketball (G1), vol-
leyball (G2) and soccer (G3) players (N = 55 boys, Mage = 15.78 years, age range = 14–17 years) from sport clubs
in Slovakia. Illinois Agility Test (IAT) was used for testing acceleration and deceleration speed, simple reaction as
well as changes of direction. Time of the trial was recorded by Microgate photocells. Fitro Agility Check (FAC) was
used for the testing of reactive agility. Differences between independent groups were assessed using Kruskal-Wallis H
test, or Mann-Whitney U test. Non-parametric Spearman correlation coefficient was used for detecting whether any
correlation between the two variables exists (results in FAC vs IAT). Results: The greatest differences were found
between the performances of players in IAT, on the contrary in the test FAC we found agreement in performances
of players of different specializations. The value of statistical significance (p = .774) point to the non-existence of
a relationship between the performance in IAT vs FAC and stress fundamental difference between both variables.
Conclusions: This study provides evidence supporting the experience of coaches that when developing agility it is
inevitable to transfer from performing exercises with the change of direction planned in advance realized in static
conditions onto the practice of open skills, in which reaction to the changing conditions of the match is combined
with anticipation of the resulting optimum solution of the given situation.
Keywords: Fitro Agility Check, Illinois Agility Test, soccer, basketball, volleyball, testing
Acta Gymnica, vol. ??, no. ??, 2016, ??–??
doi: ??
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2J. Šimonek et al.
sign of this ability. However, this basic definition of
agility is rather simplified, since currently there exists
a more precise definition not comprising solely speed
of movement, but also coordination abilities (balance
and simple reaction ability) and complex reaction with
a choice of responses to permanently changing stimuli
from the environs (Plisk, 2008). Měkota (2000) consid-
ers agility to be a physical quality, which by its essence
belongs among “mixed” abilities. It is determined by
the quality of control and analysers, as well as the
kind of muscle fibre. Agility is thus superior to speed
and coordination abilities (Šimonek, 2013). Recently,
this term expressed the ability to change direction or
to start and finish the movement as fast as possible
(Gambetta, 1996; Parsons & Jones, 1998). Similar
morphologic and biochemic factors of abilities, such as
maximum speed, acceleration speed and agility led sev-
eral authors to consider the above mentioned abilities
related and interconnected. On the contrary, Buttifant,
Graham, and Cross (2013) did not find statistically sig-
nificant relationship between direct sprint and agility
in two groups of Australian football players. Correla-
tion between agility, acceleration speed and maximum
speed was neither found by Little and Williams (2005)
in the group of 106 Australian football players. Based
on these results the authors came to the conclusion
that agility and speed abilities are distinctive and mutu-
ally independent motor abilities. Moreover, if they are
connected with the performance of sport-related activi-
ties, their correlation is even weaker (Young, Benton,
Duthie, & Pryor, 2001). This can be caused also by
the fact that training methods of their development are
specific for various kinds of speed abilities and there-
fore minimum transfer of abilities exists between them
(Young, McDowel, & Scarlett, 2001).
Sheppard and Young (2006) assume that speed
abilities and agility represent independent qualities of
an athlete and therefore their development requires a
high degree of neuro-muscular specificity. Components
of perception, which form their foundation and also
include anticipation and decision-making processes,
play also an important role in their development
(Young, James, & Montgomery, 2002). However, they
are specific for various kinds of sport and players’
positions. According to Šimonek (2013) agility is con-
nected also with various universal components, such
as technique of running, optic sensing, experience, etc.
When testing agility we have to take into consid-
eration sudden changes of direction of movement,
acceleration and fast stops. This distinct character of
movement, which is used mainly in sport games and
martial arts, can show evidence of the fact that there
are also other running mechanisms implemented than
in typical athletic sprints (Sayers, 2000).
Performing changes of direction of movement is
relatively independent from the reaching of speed
when running in a straight line (Little & Williams,
2005; Young, Benton, et al., 2001). Acceleration and
deceleration are parts of the movements with changes
of direction, which form the essence of the manifesta-
tion of agility, and therefore they are specific qualities
and must be developed in this way (Jeffreys, 2006).
Showing speed and agility in team sports occurs as
a response to play like situations (Young, Benton, et al.,
2001). This means that perception-action connection
and decision making are critical elements for develop-
ing the ability to manifest speed prerequisites and abil-
ity in the conditions of a match (Gamble, 2013).
There are two basic concepts of agility development
in sport games (Bloomfield, Polman, O’Donoghue, &
McNaughton, 2007). The first one represents devel-
opment of movement mechanisms, where relatively
closed skills are applied. For developing agility special-
ized commercially available training aids (coordination
ladders, mini-hurdles, etc.) are used. This concept does
not include significant components of decision-making
and complex reaction. The other concept represents
agility development by means of relatively open skills,
where fast changes of movement direction are executed
in training conditions, which are not so structured
and therefore similar to the ones in matches. This
suggests that development of agility in sport games
is always important in terms of optimization of sport
preparation of players. Coaches should focus on train-
ing means used for the development of speed-strength
possibilities in anaerobic regime, where adaptation
changes occur in consequence of using these means
performed in maximum and submaximum zones of
intensity of loading.
The aim of the research was to find out differences
in the performance of players from the point of view of
sport specialization and also to assess the relationship
between performances of players in two agility tests
(Illinois Agility Test, measuring the ability of simple
reaction, acceleration, deceleration and changes of
movement direction, as well as Fitro Agility Check,
measuring the above mentioned processes plus the
ones of perception and decision-making). Based on
the statements of Gamble (2013) and Bloomfield et
al. (2007), as well as recommendations of Hamar and
Zemková (2001) we expect that there is no relationship
between the results of these two agility tests employed
with young soccer, volleyball and basketball players.
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3
Agility performance in sport games
Results
When assessing the level of performances in observed
indicators in individual groups (sport games) the
following mean values were observed – the highest
level of performances in IAT was found in volleyball
players (M = 15.76 s), basketball players ranked sec-
ond (M = 15.79 s) and soccer players ranked third
(M = 16.25 s).
By comparing the performances in FAC the high-
est level of reactive agility was found in the group
of soccer players (M = 1287 ms), volleyball players
(M = 1319 ms), while the lowest level was recorded
in the group of basketball players (M = 1339 ms). Dif-
ferences in the groups, however, were minimal. Basic
descriptive indicators are presented in Table 1.
In IAT statistically significant difference (Table1)
was found between the observed groups of players
representing three sport games (H = 10.24; p = .006).
Methods
Participants
The sample comprised male basketball (G1; n = 11),
volleyball (G2; n = 12) and soccer (G3; n = 32) play-
ers (N = 55, Mage = 15.78 years, age range 14–17 years)
from sport clubs playing in the first junior division
in Slovakia. Different counts of players in partial
groups were caused by outer circumstances and condi-
tions for the research.
Informed consent was obtained from the parents of
the athletes involved in the measurements in advance.
The Ethics Commission of the Faculty of Education,
Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra gave
approval to the measurements of the athletes for
research purposes.
Data collection
Illinois Agility Test (IAT) (Getchell, 1979) was used
for testing acceleration and deceleration speed, simple
reaction as well as changes of direction (pre-planned
agility) (Figure 1). Tested athletes carried out one
measured trial. Time of the trial was recorded by Kit
Racetime2 Light Radio photocells (Microgate, Bolz-
ano-Bozen, Italy).
Fitro Agility Check (FAC) (Hamar & Zemková,
2000) was used for the testing of reactive agility.
Sixteen randomly generated stimuli (time interval
2000 ms) were displayed alternatively in four different
corners of the screen. Task of the tested person was to
react as fast as possible and adequately to the stimuli by
running over 3 meters and touching by foot the square
mat (35 × 35 cm) situated on the floor in the particu-
lar corner of the delimited area (Figure 2). Time was
measured by the computer programme in milliseconds.
Data analysis
Basic descriptive statistics were used for data process-
ing. Since the normality of distribution of groups was
not observed, differences between independent groups
were assessed using Kruskal-Wallis H test. Mann-Whit-
ney U test was used for the comparison of medians of
two independent groups (among sport games). Estima-
tion of the strength of effect (Effect size) was realized
by coefficient η2: small effect .01, medium effect .06,
and large effect .14 (Morse, 1999).
Spearman correlation coefficient (rs) was used for
finding out associations between IAT and FAC. For
the verification of null hypothesis the value p < .05 was
used. Data were processed using Microsoft Excel (Ver-
sion 2010; Microsoft, Redmond, WA, USA) and SPSS
(Version 13; SPSS, Chicago, IL, USA) programmes.
Figure 1. Illinois Agility Test.
Figure 2. Fitro Agility Check equipment.
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4J. Šimonek et al.
The found value of effect size points to the large degree
(η2 = .19) of factor causing the differences between the
groups. We can find differentiated level of complex
motor abilities between the individual sport games. Bas-
ketball players and volleyball players reached a higher
level of complex abilities when compared with soccer
players (p < .05). Accordingly, inter-group comparison
of results in IAT showed statistically significant differ-
ence between soccer and volleyball players (p = .009).
By comparing the values of two groups of basketball
and volleyball players we found out that there are no
differences between performances in both tests (IAT
and FAC) (p = .877 and p = .325 respectively). In FAC,
however, no difference between the groups can be
found again (p = .895). Similar results can be observed
also in case of comparing basketball and soccer play-
ers. Results in IAT were significantly different in both
groups (p = .013); in FAC, however, no difference in
performances can be registered again (p = .140).
When assessing the relationship between the two
variables (performances in IAT and FAC) in individual
sport games the following values were recorded: in
basketball (rs = .527, p = .096), volleyball (rs = .273,
p = .391) and soccer (rs = .019, p = .918). No significant
relationship (rs = –.040, p = .774) was found between
both indicators when we included all three sports in the
analysis as one group.
Discussion
The study showed that the FAC discriminates between
groups of athletes with different demands on their
agility skills. Assessment of the level of performances
in the selected indicators using IAT suggested that
the observed minimal differences could be caused by
different contents of preparation, different genetic
prerequisites of players participating in the research,
and/or by various stage of sport preparation from the
point of view of periodization of loading, characteris-
tics of the structure of movement in the given sport
specialization, etc. The highest level of reactive agility
was found in the group of soccer players, followed by
volleyball and basketball players. This can be attributed
to somatic parameters of players in individual sport
games (the centre of mass is lower and the movement
in joints is faster). With regard to the character of
motor performance the dominance of basketball play-
ers over volleyball players was expected.
The largest differences between performances
thus can be observed in IAT, in which the realization
of movement is well known to the player in advance.
The stimuli are permanent and static and the degree of
decision-making is rather low. In FAC, despite of dif-
ferent sport specialization accordance in performances
was found in all comparisons.
When comparing the results in both tests we can
see that the highest divergence in performances was
observed in IAT. It is obvious that the task of the test is
well-known to the athletes in advance. The stimuli are
permanent and static and the degree of decision-mak-
ing is minimal. In the test FAC we found agreement
in performances of individual players despite their
different specializations in all comparisons. This sup-
ports the opinion of Spasic, Krolo, Zenic, Delextrat,
and Sekulic (2015) that decision-making processes in
sport games are extremely important and our results
point to the fact that they determine on the speed of
realization of the motor task to a great measure. By the
high level of decision-making quality the sportsman
can even eliminate deficiencies in the speed of move-
ment when playing the game in sport games. However,
Table 1
Descriptive statistics and inter-group differences in Illinois Agility Test and Fitro Agility Check
n M SD Mdn IQR H p η2
Illinois Agility Test (s)
Basketball 11 15.79 0.82 15.70 0.60 10.24 a, b .006 .19
Volleyball 12 15.76 0.65 15.64 0.50
Soccer 32 16.25 0.40 16.25 0.54
Fitro Agility Check (ms)
Basketball 11 1339 89 1342 88 2.11 .348 .04
Volleyball 12 1319 164 1285 139
Soccer 32 1287 82 1294 101
Note.Mdn = median; IQR = interquartile range; H = Kruskal-Wallis test; p = statistical significance; η2 = effect
size. asignificant difference between basketball and soccer (Mann-Whitney U test); bsignificant difference between
volleyball and soccer (Mann-Whitney U test) .
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5
Agility performance in sport games
it is rather from the point of view of time than from
the one of the quality of movement realization. Agil-
ity in sport games is thus complex motor ability, which
requires complex and intentional development through
sport training focusing not only on the development
of speed abilities, but also more complex processes of
reaction and control of movement on a higher level.
The measurements carried out by Horička, Hianik, and
Šimonek (2014) supported this theory.
Association between FAC and IAT was not proved
in any of the groups of players. The two phenomena are
not mutually associated, therefore, only few factors in
common exist, which would jointly participate in the
level of performance in the first and the second tests.
This was probably caused by the fact that the character
of a sport game has no essential impact on the level
of control of the movement, which is limited more by
sensori-motor processes on the level of central nervous
system than by nerve-muscular, morphological, biologi-
cal, somatic, or other prerequisites.
Similarly to Sheppard and Young (2006) and Little
and Williams (2005) our results stressed the fact that
agility is not simply one of speed abilities. Besides
simple reaction, acceleration, deceleration in connec-
tion with the change of direction speed includes also
perception components defined by complex reaction
to an unexpected stimulus occurring in variable game
situations in sport games. Training of speed abilities
and agility requires a high degree of neuro-muscular
specificity. Perception components, which form the
basis of speed and agility, should then be taken into
consideration when developing these qualities includ-
ing also anticipation and decision-making processes.
These facts are specific for individual sports games and
players’ posts (functions). Manifestation of speed and
agility in sport games occurs in reaction to game situ-
ations. Therefore these components (action-reaction
and decision-making) are the key elements in the
development of the ability to manifest speed abilities
and agility in the conditions of matches. We agree with
Bloomfield et al. (2007) that when developing speed
abilities and agility trainers should apply one of the two
well-known approaches – the first one comprises train-
ing of relatively closed skills, often using specialized
(commercially available) aids such as coordination
ladders, mini-hurdles, resistance belts, etc. The other
approach rests on open skills, where agility is mani-
fested in training conditions, which are less structured
and therefore closer to the conditions of matches.
Our study confirmed the findings of Zemková and
Hamar (2014) that similar to strength and speed abili-
ties, assessment of agility also requires a sport-specific
approach. Experience has shown that the assessment
of agility performance under sport-specific conditions
represents a more appropriate alternative than the
original version of IAT.
Limits of the study
The authors of the study are fully aware of the follow-
ing limitations – low number of subjects, low number
of sport specializations, and the lack of information
on the factors forming the content of agility. The size
of the tested group of athletes was rather small, which
means that the results may be generalized neither to
other sport games, nor to any other sport teams.
Conclusions
Based on the obtained research data we can conclude
that:
no statistically significant correlations between the
performances in FAC and IAT were found;
results proved the dominance of perception in the
character of motor activity in game situations in
sport games and its importance at agility develop-
ment in sport preparation in sport games;
based on the accomplished research as well as liter-
ary sources concerning the paradigm of classifica-
tion of agility, training and testing, there is a prior-
ity coming to our focus and that is the necessity
to recognize the essence of the complex physical
ability – agility, means of its enhancement, as well
as characteristics of existing adequate tests.
As described above, many tests used in the practice,
in fact do not comprise the level of agility (thus the pro-
cesses of decision-making and perception) and should
be used just for the measurement of speed abilities to
change the direction of movement.
When testing agility it is inevitable to use adequate
tests depending on what phenomenon we intend to
measure – if we want to measure agility as the abil-
ity to accelerate, decelerate and change the direction
of movement on static stimuli, we should use IAT,
but when we intend to measure also decision-making
processes and perception, FAC would be a better diag-
nostic tool reflecting closer the reality in sport games.
Future studies should better explain the structure of
agility in both individual and team sports, as well as on
a larger sample.
Conflict of interest
There were no conflicts of interest.
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6J. Šimonek et al.
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