Football speed is not like a 100 meter race, it has specific forms of speed that are a huge factor in performance.
These different forms of football speed are; Physical Speed, Mental speed and Technical speed.
The application of speed within football is determined by; movement of the ball, movement of the opponent and movement of a team mate.
Physical speed involves; Pure speed, Acceleration, and Deceleration.
Mental speed involves; Perceptual speed, Cognitive speed, Awareness speed, Anticipation speed, and Reaction speed.
Technical speed is the speed of applying a football skill.
Pure Speed: This is the speed of running from one point to the other in the shortest possible time. While it’s okay and desirable for footballers to have a good sprint time in a distance of 100 meters, footballers rarely run that kind of distance. The most common sprint distance in football is between 0 meters to 40 meters.
Good pure speed requires having good body coordination.
Acceleration/Deceleration: Acceleration is the ability to change (increase) speed in a given time.
Deceleration is the ability to change (decrease) speed in a given time.
Having good acceleration/deceleration is a very helpful factor of agility which helps a football player in 1v1 situations defending or attacking.
Acceleration/deceleration requires good and quick footwork, powerful muscles, a strong core and good strength and mobility of pelvis, knee and ankle joints.
Technical speed: Is the ability to manipulate the ball while applying a football skill.
Everybody can receive, pass, shoot, head, and other football skills that are applied on the ball, however, high-level footballers are able to execute these skills in the shortest possible time rarely compromising on accuracy.
Technical speed is learned through individual practice then improved under the pressure of space and time in matches with opponents.
Small-sided matches offer the best way to do match practice because activities can be done and repeated more often in a shorter time. Technical speed requires good body coordination.
Anticipation speed: Anticipation is the ability to know what is most likely going to happen.
Knowing when a teammate will cross the ball to jump and time a header, goalkeeper coming out to handle crosses, are examples of using anticipation in football.
Anticipation speed comes from experience especially that of playing small-sided games when players are in the development phase.
Awareness speed: Awareness is being able to know what is going on.
In football, it’s being aware of the ball, opponents, teammates, score, time and space e.t.c.
The basic way of improving football awareness is to keep looking over both sides of your shoulder when you are off the ball.
Cognitive speed: Cognitive is being able to recognize a problem and find the most suitable way to solve it.
In a 2v1 situation, the two attackers should be able to know and solve the problem of one defender stopping them, the same will apply to the defender, and they should be able to know how to behave while defending two attackers.
Cognitive speed is built through playing puzzles, non-violent based video games and board games like chess.
Reaction speed: Reaction is a response to a stimulus.
In football, the stimulus is mainly the ball in relation to the moments of football.
Reaction speed in football is improved through playing small-sided games that have football development conditions but first, the players need to know and master each football skill then learn and understand the principles of attacking and defending in football.
Having good ability of all football skills and knowledge of the principles of play will enable players to react faster.
Perceptual speed: Perceptual speed is mainly (85%) through visualization the other percentage is about hearing.
In football, situations keep changing in a very short time, good footballers have the ability to keep track of all changing situations and to make the most appropriate decisions for those situations in the shortest possible time.
An example of perceptual speed in football would be; as a footballer receives the ball, they will decide if to pass, shoot, dribble, run with the ball e.t.c all depending on how they interpret the situation after looking up to interpret.
The same applies to defending, do you need to press or delay the opponent.
It’s important for coaches to know and track how footballers score in football speed tests in order to keep on improving.
Mental speed is mainly controlled by the ability to concentrate and is developed from a young age through quality nutrition and good sleeping hours.
Physical speed is controlled by coordination of the body while technical speed is about coordination, how much time a player spends practicing with the ball and the time they will get in small-sided games or street football.