Improving footwork is just one of many ways to improve quickness and efficiency on offense and defense. Other ways to improve quickness and efficiency include weight training, plyos to train muscles often overlooked/underused, learning to lower your center of gravity, core strengthening, and balance. As a team, Truck Stop has chosen to focuses on some of these other factors to improve quickness and efficiency.
However, there are two instances where I think a focus on footwork, more so than the other factors, can vastly improve performance:
1.180 degree changes in direction when cutting/defending, and;
2. Pivoting as the thrower.
A player with poor footwork in these instances will require more steps than a player with good footwork, making him or her slower and less efficient.
Good 180 degree direction changes—going full speed one direction, slowing, planting, and accelerating to full speed in the opposite direction—can allow a cutter to create separation from a defender. Conversely, it can allow a defender to keep that from happening. I see many players taking lots of little steps to make a 180 degree turn, which inevitably makes the cuts less sharp and more round. This is slow and inefficient. Playing soccer in HS, I was taught the efficient way to make the turn was all based on footwork and that it should take only two steps to get fully turned around. Let's say you are planting and making a turn to your right, here is what I was told to do:
1. Plant left foot pointing at or near 90 degrees from your initial direction of motion and begin pushing off.
2.Lift right leg, rotate hips to the right.
3. Point your right knee and foot in the opposite direction, 180 degrees from your initial direction of motion, no less. Plant and push off.
4. Drive your left arm and leg in the opposite direction to accelerate.
Focusing on the footwork during this turn will direct all of your energy in the direction you want to go instead of wasting it with extra steps in the wrong direction. I remember it becoming second nature fairly quickly.
As a thrower, opening up space with fakes takes more than good footwork. But sometimes all you need to get a throw around a marker is to be quicker than him/her. Even if your fakes aren't good, focusing on footwork can give you that quickness edge to get you from open-side to break-side faster than the marker.
As a marker, you should learn to recognize poor footwork and bait it. In my experience, it's the taller, lankier players and, of course, the newer players, who require extra steps. As a marker you should note poor footwork and anticipate the same footwork next time. Then, if you have good footwork, you should be able to beat the thrower to the release point to get the block.
I do not have great fakes and am often criticized for not pivoting enough when I have the disc. Last season I came up with a little drill to do at home to improve quickness. It's supposed to simulate throwing around a marker. I moved away the chairs to make some space in front of my kitchen table, which is about 5 feet long. Then I positioned myself in middle of the long side of the table with a disc. Focusing on quickly moving my non-pivot foot in only one step, I would fake one direction, pivot, plant, and pretend to throw by touching the short side of the table with the disc during the throwing motion. The length of the table and the need to touch the short side of the table forced me to extend out. I would repeat the drill until I felt comfortable with my footwork. Then I would do it again, positioning myself relative to the table to simulate a forehand mark, backhand mark then straight up mark.
I further refined this learned footwork in practice against live marks. Even though my fakes are still atrocious, I now feel more confident that I can beat a marker to my throwing release point because my footwork is cleaner.