Some may feel acceleration is a much more important component for team sports than absolute speed. The idea is that most sports only consist of short 5, 10, 15, and 20 yard bursts of acceleration. I don't argue this fact one bit, but I do believe neglecting absolute speed, or stating that not much can be benefited from it is very short-sighted.
Question: What is the purpose of acceleration?
Answer: To get to top speed as fast as possible.
Question #2: What if you have an athlete who's absolute speed sucks, but is great at accelerating because he or she has done a ton of acceleration work?
Answer: You have an athlete that can get to a tortoise speed very quickly... awesome.
What I question is the logic of only working on acceleration or thinking that acceleration is so much more important than absolute speed.
Again it comes back to, what is the athlete accelerating to? To get to TOP SPEED. If getting to top speed quickly is the goal of acceleration, wouldn't it be of great benefit to improve top speed to increase the ceiling height of acceleration potential? Isn't a very fast top speed a window to great acceleration potential?
Absolute speed consists of and requires great leg turn-over (stride frequency). If an athlete can improve their absolute speed, then their ability to move and coordinate their legs quickly will be enhanced. Translating this into the acceleration component, the ability to accelerate quickly should be enhanced as well, in a well rounded program including power and strength work.
A lot of this comes back to lack of high intensity posterior chain training. Most acceleration is very quad (or knee dominant) in nature and a program lacking absolute speed work and true posterior chain work can appear to be effective, but I think in game action this may not transfer as favorably. (read: injury prevention)
Let me be clear: Absolute speed and acceleration training go hand-in-hand. Both are extremely important components to athletic development.
Some benefits of absolute speed work:
-Hip mobility: Great hip seperation work that will transfer to the sports speed (specificity).
-Motor unit recruitment by means of velocity requirements.
-Injury prevention: not many injuries occur during the acceleration phase: many do occur at higher or top speeds.
-Coordination over full ranges-of-motion. Charlie Francis: "...what you can say for sure is that better tone is influenced by higher speeds. As more fibers within muscle contract together (recruitment), more fibers subsequently relax together." (again, read: injury prevention)
-Potential improvement in muscle fiber lengths. Kumagai et al. (2000) hypothesizes, based on their research, that muscle fascicle lengthening may be a potential adaptation to sprint training. ...theory, but interesting nonetheless.
-True "core" work. Equal and opposite reactions being transfered through the torso at high velocities.
-Improved function of the posterior chain, which doesn't get maximum work in acceleration training.
(Lieberman et al. 2006, and Kyrolainen et al. 2005)(starting to sound like a broken record here. read: injury prevention)
-Improved elasticity throughout the entire body. Improved ground reaction control out of the foot, ankle, and knee. At top speeds the knee becomes more of a dynamic stabilizer for the forces generated at the hip to be transfered to the ground, whereas during acceleration, the knee is the primary force generator.
Something else to ponder:
The motor pattern of sprinting is coordinated through the cerebellum. Being more primitive than other parts of the brain, the cerebellum, controls and coordinates many locomotive functions.
Speaking of asymmetries,
Any asymmetry in movement is an asymmetry in the nervous system and it's body maps. The nervous system needs to be fixed first, muscles and fascia will follow suit.