When we speak of speed, we are referring to the time required to execute a technique or a skill. But don’t be fooled, speed alone is no guarantee of success in soccer. If speed guaranteed you success, I would recruit all the Olympic sprinters. Unfortunately this is not the case.
In modern soccer, speed is of paramount importance. Back in the days, several top teams carried one or two slow moving players whose selection was justified by their outstanding ball skills. Such a luxury could not be tolerated in today’s game. There is so little time to work the ball, so little space in which to control it, that no successful team can afford any slow movers.
Speed Of Movement
Many athletes, especially track sprinters, are able to run very fast along a set course or a straight line. But this is only half the requirement. How many of these sprinters are able to stop suddenly, take off again or even change direction? These are the basic requirements of a soccer match.
Many people claim that a player is born either fast or slow and cannot be made into a speedster if he does not possess the natural genetics. To some extent this is true, but with the right training, speed can definitely be improved. So how do we improve our speed? How do we go about getting match sharpness?
- Place 6 cones on the ground spaced 5 metres apart. Starting from the first cone, jog at an easy pace to the second cone and make a flat-out sprint to the third; walk to the fourth cone while relaxing with deep breathing exercises; jog from the fourth to the fifth cone and finish the run with another flat-out sprint to the sixth and final cone. Allow sufficient time for recovery ( about 2 minutes) and then repeat the circuit.
- Another great sprint exercise is this, measure out a distance of approximately 100 metres and mark the end/finish line with a marker or cone. Set yourself a time to run the distance, using 75% of your maximum effort. A good rough estimate is 14 seconds although this time depends on the age and physical condition of the player. Having run the 100 metres at 75%, walk back to the starting line while doing your deep breathing exercises. The walk back should only take you approximately 1 minute. Repeat this sequence 10-20 times depending on your level of fitness.
The exercises below are valuable aids to improving speed as they concentrate on developing your leg muscles.
- Hoping a set number of times on each leg.
- While jumping on the spot, jump high and perform scissors movements with the legs, to the front, the rear and to the sides.
- While jumping on the spot, land alternately with the legs astride and with the feet together. The arms should be swung to assist with balance.
- While jumping on the spot, draw the knees and heels up as close as possible to the chin or chest area.
- Jump and spin completely around in a full circle. Alternate with spinning to avoid dizziness.
Introducing the ball into exercises is what soccer is all about and till this day I don’t understand how some coaches deprive their players of the ball.
A basic wall is required for these exercises,
- Throw the ball at the wall from a distance of about 5 metres. Sprint after the ball and trap it on the half volley or catch it on the instep before it hits the ground.
- An extension to this exercise is to place a cone about 5 metres from the wall. This time throw the ball against the wall from a distance of 3 metres, turn around, sprint around the cone and return in time to trap the rebound on the half volley.
Speed Of Thought
Speed of thought is an attribute for which no specific exercises are really applicable. It’s the process where the brain translates thought into action to deal with a situation. Speed of thought is a valuable asset to any player. From my experiences (open to debate), I have found that it differs greatly from one player to the next. However, the player who trains the hardest and puts the most effort into these drills is invariably the one who develops superior speed of thought.
So like I’ve said before, grit the teeth, pull up the sleeves and train hard. The rest will follow…….
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