Speed for a football player



Speed is often confused with insight. When I start running earlier than the others, I appear faster.   -Johan Cruyff


Speed in football can be quite complex. It certainly entails more than just running fast.

Players who are not typically fast runners can excel in football if they have sharp feet and quick speed of thought.

Finally, incorporating a ball into some of the speed and agility drills is important to make all those gains in speed transferable to the field of play.

Although high-speed actions only contribute to; 11% of the total distance covered, they in fact constitute the more crucial moments of the game and contribute directly to winning possession of the ball and to scoring or to conceding of goals.

High-speed actions during football competition can be categorized into actions requiring acceleration, maximal speed, or agility. Acceleration is the rate of change in velocity that allows a player to reach maximum velocity in a minimum amount of time. Maximum speed is the maximal velocity at which a player can sprint. Agility does not have a global definition, but it is often recognized as the ability to change direction and start and stop quickly.

For football speed as:

  1. The ability to accelerate quickly 
  2. A high maximum speed 
  3. The ability to react quickly to situations 
  4. Being able twist, turn and change direction quickly 
  5. The ability to produce bursts of fast running throughout the game 
  6. The ability to read situation and to anticipate next situation
  7. The ability to move the ball and use the ball at speed 


A lot of people say that sprinters are born and not made, and while it is true that genetics plays a large part in a player’s ability to move quickly, all football players can improve all aspects that make up speed.

These are just some of the ideas I use when working on different aspects of speed.


To get acceleration, a player needs to move his/her feet very quickly, gradually increasing stride length as he/she drives forward. Fast feet drills, using speed ladders etc. can greatly help a player’s acceleration as well as coordination. Strength can be increased using sprint drills and low intensity ply metrics (for players 13+).

Weight training is ideal to gain specific strength but not for youth soccer players under the age of 16 or so.

Maximum Speed

Maximum speed requires leg strength and leg speed. One way in which youth soccer players can gain more leg strength and leg speed is to work on sprint drills. These are drills that break down the sprinting action and work on specific areas. I like to use these as part of a long warm up session and usually perform them over roughly 20-30 meters. With all these drills, it is important that the arm action is strong and relaxed. Mimic the arm action of sprinting style, so for instance if doing bum kicks, don’t try and kick your hand that you place behind you, run with normal arm action.

  • Bum kicks, concentrate on leg speed
  • High knees, taking care not to lean back
  • Skips for height
  • Skips for length
  • Bounds for length (players 13+)
  • Hops for length (players 13+)
  • Do 2 to 4 repetitions of good quality drills, slow jog or walk back to recover.

Reaction Speed

To have football players sprint when they are given a command. The command can be visual or a sound. Remember that in game situations, they will usually react to visual stimuli. It is also a good idea to have players react while they are moving rather than standing still. Soccer players would not normally be stationary during a game, and nor would they usually be required to react quickly and at speed from a stationary position.

Lots of fun game type football drills can be used, where players in pairs react to a command or signal as part of race or relay. This keeps players concentrating on the command and therefore making their running reaction more natural and relaxed. In other words, rather than have them stationary, then you say “set” “go”, they are running on the spot and may have to jump, turn, or sprint forwards, backwards etc.

Change Direction

Setup soccer drills and sprints where the players are not just running in a straight line. Get them to run back then forwards, side to side, then back, diagonally etc. In a soccer game there are no restrictions on the directions they will so incorporate multi direction runs into speed training.

Sustain Speed

Speed endurance is the ability to hold close to maximum speed for as long as possible, a 400 meter runner has good speed endurance. A soccer player, needs elements of speed endurance but also need to be able to carry out many short bursts of effort during a match. To train for this requires, interval type training, with high intensity and a reasonable recovery period. This type of training, should take place once the player has had some base training to get some initial endurance on which to build more specific speed endurance.

For the latest training tips, programs, cutting edge strength and conditioning news, speed training, and much more, visit: Complete Speed Training by Coerver Coaching



Developing the 3 Types of Soccer Speed by F.I.T
In the F.I.T. Model, we noticed that if players were able to execute a move with the ball and separate from a defender, they first needed to develop a base of specific (skill) and non-specific (speed) abilities and then bring these two aspects together with a leveling motor ability…this was the birth of our Functionally Integrated Training model where we have identified developmental needs for 3 different types of soccer speed.

  • Cognitive (Mental)
  • Neuromuscular (Physical)
  • Situational (Sport Specific)

Cognitive Speed is comprised of 3 main categories:

  1. Anticipation (understanding the game, preparing mentally, being ready, preparedness, pre-calculation of trajectory, speed, force…)                                                                                                                                                                                                      
  2. Recognition (seeing a situation develop and knowing what to do, decision making speed, sensing changes in touch, sight and sound (tactile, visual and auditory indicators), cued by recognizing sequences or preparatory movements)                                      
  3. Reaction (response time, neuromuscular, motor reaction sequencing, sensing time and decision time, improved by repetition of various neuromuscular skill work, efficiency in execution of specific motor patterns, “time between stimulus and response”, specific reaction times…) 

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