Richard Bate and Ian Jeffreys
2015, pp. 216
Champaign, IL, Human Kinetics
Why is Speed so important in today’s soccer?
Definitely during its history, soccer has changed in the rules of the game, in sportswear and footwear, in game organisation. But there are other key factors that differentiate modern soccer:
- Today’s game is quicker; specifically, both ball speed (as it travels from player to player) and players own movements are much faster than they were even just 10 or 15 years ago.
- Players now regularly cover distances between 9-14 km per game, because they are running faster and moving more often.
- The game features of today’s attack are the accuracy and speed to pass the ball.
- The typical characteristic of a player has also evolved into a quicker, more agile and physically sculpted athlete.
So Speed is a vital commodity for players who want to maximize their performance.
In soccer we’re talking about Game speed, in other words the speed requirements for soccer are different compared the practice by track athletes; indeed, the player during the game moves in an open environment in which distance, direction and starting pattern all vary from moment to moment. In addiction, the athlete’s movements need to be linked with game skill requirements. Maximum speed and Acceleration (two important terms related to running speed) are performed to accomplish a soccer-specific task, such as shooting, tackling, dribbling or passing. Players are also required to change direction more than a 1000 times per game, exactly every 6-7s. Those directional movements are closely linked with the high speed actions. So it’s important the development of Agility too. For modern players Speed and Agility are two key components that contribute to the ultimate quality of performance.
Speed is important for decision making of players. The game rarely presents exactly identical situations, especially in free play, so the abilities to think and decide at speed, to act at speed, and to change decision at speed are crucial to “build” an intelligent player.
Development of Speed and Agility starts with young players coaching, remembering the essential of sensitive phases, in other words the “fertility” moments of development of physical abilities. We can start to stimulate the abilities of reaction and movements frequency (Cyclic speed) at 6 years old, even if the peak is between 9-11 years old. The rapidity of isolated movements (No-Cyclic speed) and Acceleration have their sensitive phase during 11-14 years old. After those years Speed and Agility will tend to stabilise and then decrease. So it’s vital to create right training programs that help players to maintain this capacity to high levels, remembering and following the elements of a Game speed program (technical and physical development) and the right Game speed exercise progression.
(di Michele Rosci)