Soccer-specific endurance: a solid aerobic capacity to speed recovery from fast running is, in my opinion, the most crucial fitness component for success.

The component of that remark about “rapid running” that I haven’t addressed is speed. Elmar Bolowich, the men’s basketball coach at the University of North Carolina, advised that I write about it.

He observes many teams make little effort to develop speed on their travels, and he believes that players and coaches are looking for ways to improve speed.

The essence of the game was forever transformed in the mid-1950s when the great Hungarian national team humiliated, decimated, and humiliated England 6-3 at Wembley, a game that was not as close as a result indicated. Observers of the game remarked on the Hungarians’ incredible pace and work rate.

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In 1974, when I first started paying attention to the World Cup, I read that all field players from the old East Germany could run the 100 meters in under 11 seconds. Four or five Hungarian players could run 100 meters in 11.5 seconds or fewer! From four or five guys clocking in under 11.5 seconds to the entire squad clocking in under 11 seconds. A good high school soccer squad nowadays might not be able to go faster than 11.5 seconds.

Today’s game is played at a considerably faster pace than the one I used to play. Is this due to a better athlete, improved coaching, or something else entirely? I’d want to believe the first two, but I’ve also seen coaches use the free-substitution rule to urge players to run as fast as they can until they’re exhausted and then be pulled for a respite.

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As a result, players are taught to sprint anytime they are on the pitch. If you’ve seen recent NCAA men’s finals, you’ve seen teams that strive to play at a high tempo throughout the game versus teams that play at a slower pace and employ speed sparingly, such as Wisconsin, St. John’s, and North Carolina, past victors.

Speed is hard to come by the creature. Is it something that comes naturally or something that can be learned? What factors influence the perception of speed? The first player to the ball may or may not be faster than the opponent; some people get there first regularly.

The legendary Boston Celtics’ Larry Bird was never mistaken for a sprinter, yet he always appeared in the proper position. Was it physical speed, mental speed, or a combination of the two?

Ajax evaluates 16-year-olds using their TIPS plan, which includes technique, intelligence, personality, and speed, with speed being the trait with the least room for improvement.

Joe Luxbacher, the men’s coach at the University of Pittsburgh, defines speed as having seven components:

The rate with which we see things. Using the senses to comprehend different aspects of the game
Rate of Anticipation Predicts what is going to happen before it occurs.
Decision-Making Speed is a term used to describe how quickly someone makes a decision—making a judgment in the quickest time possible.
Reaction Time The ability to react to a teammate’s or opponent’s activity.

Without the ball, there is no speed—the maximum speed of movement.

With the ball, you must be quick. With the ball, move as quickly as possible.
The speed of the action in the game. Make efficient tactical decisions in response to changing circumstances.

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If you look closely at this list, you’ll notice that many of the distinct speed characteristics are linked to the speed with which people think and make decisions. These are skills that can only be acquired through game play.

True, the game is the finest instructor, but you may aid it in several ways. Small-sided games can easily be modified to challenge participants to recognize, anticipate, decide, react, and act more quickly. Lower the size of the field by cramming more players into a smaller area, allowing defenders to get to the attacker faster.

Playing 6 v. 6 in half a field in the penalty area can greatly speed up the game. Both offense and defense will be forced to think faster as a result of this. To be successful, one’s skills must be exceptional. In games like this, the opponent can readily pick up a missed trap.

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You can’t play in a game like this if you don’t have decent talents. And today’s defensive strategies are oriented around shrinking the field and cramming more players into a tight space.

Physically, improving running form is a big part of increasing speed. And, speaking from my experience, soccer players‘ running style can never be confused with that of a track sprinter. According to speed experts like Vern Gambetta, running speed is a combination of starting speed, acceleration, top-end speed, deceleration, and matching speed with teammates (think of the running back that outruns his blockers in football).

Also, keep in mind that agility and speed are two separate animals. The most agile players aren’t always the fastest, and the shortest players aren’t always the most elegant. Recognizing, responding, making decisions, balancing, footwork, changing directions, and avoiding obstacles are all aspects of agility and lateral speed.