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Part 1: Principles of Soccer Speed

In soccer, speed is a multidimensional skill that goes beyond mere running speed.

It is an essential element that has the power to separate players at different skill levels and have a big effect on how well they perform on the field.

As a seasoned strength and conditioning coach with a focus on youth soccer fitness, I am aware of how critical it is for young athletes to develop their speed.

This article, the first of four, will examine the many types of speed needed for best performance as it delves into the principles of soccer speed.

The Different Types of Speed in Soccer

Pure Speed

Pure speed refers to the raw, unadulterated ability to get from point A to point B in the least amount of time. It is the most fundamental type of speed and is frequently associated with quick players.

In soccer, pure speed is essential for breakaways, chasing down an opponent, and making runs to create or close gaps.

Technical Speed

Technical speed refers to the ability to perform soccer-specific abilities swiftly and efficiently. It entails controlling and manipulating the ball at high speeds, maintaining possession under pressure, and making rapid passes and shoots.

This level of speed is required for players to perform well under pressure and sustain a fast tempo of play.

Reaction Speed

Reaction speed is the ability to respond quickly to inputs such as an opponent’s movement or a ball’s change of direction. It refers to the quickness with which a player can digest information, make a decision, and then act on it.

Goalkeepers, for example, rely heavily on reaction time to make saves, whereas outfield players use it to intercept passes or avoid tackles.

Mental Speed

The speed of mind is a factor that is sometimes underestimated. It refers to how rapidly a player can understand the game, predict the next move, and make sound decisions. 

Mental quickness enables athletes to stay one step ahead, positioning themselves efficiently and capitalizing on openings that slower-thinking opponents may overlook.

Practical Applications for Youth Soccer Training

To develop this type of quickness in young soccer players, trainers and coaches must use a range of training approaches that address each facet. Here are some practical applications of each type.

  • Pure Speed: Use sprint drills (iyca.org/store) that focus on acceleration and maximum velocity. Incorporate resistance training to improve leg strength and power.
  • Technical Speed: Implement ball control drills that require quick footwork and fast decision-making under pressure.
  • Reaction Speed: Utilize reaction drills that challenge players to quickly adapt to changing scenarios, such as random ball ejections from a machine or coach-led visual cues.
  • Mental Speed: Encourage small-sided games that force players to think quickly and make rapid decisions in tight spaces.

Soccer speed development is more than simply physical conditioning; it is also about producing well-rounded athletes who can think, react, and move swiftly.

Understanding and practicing the various forms of speed allows youth soccer players to improve their performance and obtain a competitive advantage on the field.

Stay tuned for the following piece in this series, where we will explore the science behind speed development and provide evidence-based training methods to improve soccer speed.

This article is guided by the principles of the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA) and supported by scientific research and practical experience in the field of youth soccer conditioning. It aims to be educational, engaging, and practical, providing coaches and players with the knowledge and tools to develop speed in soccer effectively.

Author: Beni Brannigan

Beni is an IYCA Ambassador, Entrepreneur and CEO. He’s earned UEFA coaching badges and a BA in Physical Fitness & Sports Conditioning. He has professional experience across soccer, golf, and rugby, expanding programs in Texas and Ireland. He has founded GameLikeSoccerCoaching and BBsports Fitness and Nutrition.
His coaching ethos revolves around instilling core values in young athletes, emphasizing the importance of practice, play, and the pursuit of perfection.

Want to learn more about SPEED Development and/or Mechanics?

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References:

(1) Validity and reliability of speed tests used in soccer: A … – PLOS. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0220982.

(2) Enhanced sprint performance analysis in soccer: New insights … – PLOS. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0217782.

(3) Speed and Agility Training in Female Soccer Players – A Systematic Review. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/c8f9/7f5e7644418dd472c5c343fdb3aba62077b3.pdf.

(4) Validity and reliability of speed tests used in soccer … – ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/335186596_Validity_and_reliability_of_speed_tests_used_in_soccer_A_systematic_review/fulltext/5d556127a6fdccb7dc3d0b70/Validity-and-reliability-of-speed-tests-used-in-soccer-A-systematic-review.pdf.

(5) How to improve your speed, stamina and strength | Soccer training drill | Nike Academy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEUAlipS298.

(6) Acceleration Training For Footballers/Soccer Players | Reach Top Speed Faster | Individual Drills. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Dt2DbjAKbo.

(7) 🎯Speed – Agility – Quickness Training Soccer (SAQ). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Asi1EgzvgA.

(8) Speed training in football (soccer): How to develop this game-changer. https://www.scienceforsport.com/speed-training-in-soccer-how-to-develop-it/.

(9) Speed Drills for Soccer: Full Training Guide – Overtime Athletes Blog. https://blog.overtimeathletes.com/speed-training-soccer/.

(10) Soccer Speed Spectrum: Exploring the 4 Types. https://www.discoversoccer.info/speed/4-types-of-soccer-speed.

(11) Soccer speed drills – 8 tips on how to get faster for soccer. https://www.blazepod.com/blogs/all/soccer-speed-drills-8-tips-on-how-to-get-faster-for-soccer.

(12) Fitness & Conditioning for young soccer players – Soccer summer camps …. https://www.ertheo.com/blog/en/fitness-conditioning-young-soccer-players/.

(13) Gym Workout for Soccer Players: Enhancing Field Performance with …. https://soccercoachtheory.com/gym-workout-for-soccer-players/.

(14) 6 Steps to Building a High Performance and Soccer Specific Training Program. https://blog.bridgeathletic.com/6-steps-building-a-high-performance-soccer-specific-training-program.

(15) Strength Training for Young Soccer Players — FC Game Changer. https://www.fcgamechanger.com/blog/strength-training-for-young-soccer-players.

(16) Best Drills For Youth Soccer | Soccercrate. https://soccercrate.co/blogs/news/best-drills-for-youth-soccer.

(17) undefined. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0220982.

(18) undefined. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0217782.

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