Soccer Specific Speed
Everyone knows sprinting is an important part of performance in soccer, but it doesn’t take an English Premier League coach to see that other things like quickness, agility, and change of direction are important parts of game speed.
Today, with combinations of GPS and video tracking we have more information than ever about the movement demands of soccer players. At Velocity, we look at data from around the world, in different leagues and levels of competition. We know everything from how many runs players make at different speeds to how often they change direction.
What does it tell us? The game keeps getting faster every decade. It also gets faster as you move up each level, so if you want to compete you’d better be fast.
During a match, a professional player makes between 30 – 40 sprints. We’re not talking about a 100m dash; these sprints range from 1 – 4 seconds over distances of 3 – 39 yards.
Sprinting has two main components: acceleration and maximum (or max) velocity. Acceleration is speeding up rapidly, and maximum velocity is sprinting over ~75% of full speed. Since the sprints can reach 39 yards, and this is far beyond the distance even the best payers can accelerate, we know that soccer players need both.
We know the technique needed for acceleration and for max velocity are very different. The two most apparent differences between acceleration sprint mechanics and max velocity sprint mechanics are body angle and leg action. Soccer players need to develop both movement skills to be exceptional.
While sprinting speed is very important, soccer isn’t a track meet. It’s not a linear game and elite players display incredible agility. To develop soccer specific speed, you need agility. We’ve talked about soccer agility in other articles you can read. Agility can be broken down into two key components: quickness and change of direction.
Sprinting speed is great, but if you can’t change direction, you’re going to get burned.
Lightning fast movements in 1-2 steps can make all the difference in reacting to an opponent or leaving one on the ground.
Change of Direction
The game isn’t linear; it constantly changes direction. A player who can change direction in fewer steps and faster than the opposition has an advantage.
Fast on the Field
So to play your best game, you need several kinds of speed. Players will usually be better at one part or another, but you can’t afford any glaring holes. As an elite player you need:
- Maximum Velocity
- Change of Direction
You don’t have to leave your soccer specific speed to chance, nor should you. While you may need the right genetics to be the fastest in the world at any of these, through training you can improve – at anything. Improve both your physical attributes and your motor control and you’ll be faster. Speed is a skill, and like any skill, it can be taught.