You only have to watch a senior professional game of
football to recognise the importance that speed has in the
game. But there is more to speed than meets the eye.
Soccer players are athletes, but unlike a 100m runner where
there is explosive speed for 10 seconds in a straight line,
there are many other abilities that soccer players need to
Here are 5 key soccer related speed abilities that you
should develop in your players.
#1 – Speed of thought
Soccer players have a great deal to concentrate on. There
senses are constantly being blitzed with information, which
they need to quickly decipher. Here are some examples:
– Where opponents are positioned
– Actions of their team mates
– What’s infront of them and their peripheral vision
– The conditions of the pitch and the weather
– The noise from team mates, crowd, coaches and opponents
– Their tactical position and the strategy of the team
#2 – Speed of anticipation
Some players have a great reading of the game. I have a
friend who although he is now in his late 40’s early 50’s
still plays regularly and competes well with players half
How does he do this… because he’s played soccer all his
life at professional and international level he has built a
huge database in his brain of playing situations, player
characteristics, tactical situations etc. and he is able to
draw on this which gives him superb speed of anticipation.
Sure for explosiveness and reaction times the younger
players would win every time, but as the old saying
goes…”the first couple of yards are in the head!”.
So here it is important that players develop a knack of
interpreting the actions of the opponents and what that
means to the games development.
#3 – Speed of reaction
As mentioned in the last bullet, speed of reaction is
Anticipation is one thing, being able to react quickly is
Consider the role of the goal keeper, their reaction time
to a sudden shot, deflection, switch in angle of attack,
flight of the ball must be very acute.
But how does a goal keeper react and what to? In this
instance, the goal keeper will react to a number of
external stimuli, here’s a list:
– The visual element of the opponent with the ball, are
they carrying it, have they got backlift as if ready to
strike the ball, is the opponent in space and is their a
clear line of sight on goal
– The auditory element, do they hear the strike of the
ball, is it fizzing, does it take a deflection of a player
(thud), a shout from a team mate, maybe a close opponent
barracking the goalie ” he’s going to shoot!”
All of these stimuli will have an effect on the player.
Once stimulated the player should choose the best option
available to them to react to that situation.
Again we will use the goalie;
If a shot is fizzing towards them low and hard, the pitch
is wet and quick, and there are a number of players the
ball has to go through before hitting the target, do they
get down low anticipating a clear strike on goal, have
quick feet and get their body in line with the expected
flight path, do they dive towards the ball, kneel or hack
The answer to this question lies in the ability, confidence
and experience of the player.
#4 Speed of feet
Here we are talking about the basic running / sprinting
Initial explosion and acceleration are vital to covering
the ground quickly. Speed of feet is without the ball, and
since it is without the ball it is rarely in a straight
Therefore, as a players progress is often inhibited by
other players they must adjust and change direction in
relation to their team mates actions and those of the
Explosive speed is generated from the leg muscles
stretching and contracting to achieve maximum power, but
good running technique, driving through the arms and
co-ordination are also vital.
#5 Skill speed
Watching a player run at pace and carry the ball is a truly
Sprinting full out while keeping possession and holding off
any challenges from opponents to dribble and create an
opportunity to shoot at goal is a tremendous ability.
This key skill though is still built on the last point
which is speed of feet.
However, while a player may be very quick is only
advantageous if their ball manipulation and technical
skills are as up to speed as their pace (pardon the pun).
So, what can you do to help coach the 5 key speed
#1 Speed of thought – enable players to make their own
decisions, that means give them lots of opportunites to
make choices. Condition games so that it forces them to
Play soccer games with them, don’t just do drill work. By
playing games they will also gain experience which help
them build their database from which to draw on.
Keep them motivated, players will not think unless they are
motivated and stimulated to do so. Finally, let them be
free of any fear and stress of making wrong decisions.
#2 Speed of anticipation – play more soccer, coach them
through the game.
Ask plenty of questions on how they are reading the game
Offer your insights into positions they have taken up in
relation to opponents advances, both strengths and
#3 Speed of reaction – use reaction balls, have goal keeper
starting positions with their back to play and react to
shots, play rebounds off walls.
Try not to use your whistle or command as the key for the
reaction as this wouldn’t happen in a real game so don’t
practice this way.
#4 Speed of feet – always, always warm the muscles up
before doing any speed work!
Do some sprints, keep it high intensity with short sharp
bursts. Develop good running technique with the use of
speed ladders and hurdles.
Try using some different starting positions to like
standing, from a jump and land, on their back, on their
stomach, incorporate turns, feints and directional changes.
#5 Skill speed – make your training as game related as
possible, focusing on speed with the ball, movement, game
related distances and challenge.