Just to level set you, when we discuss speeds of soccer, we are talking about thought processes that take fractions of a second and action processes that don’t take much longer. Improving these speeds then is an exercise in making small improvements as well as in training certain parts of the brain. But we do this in the context of soccer.
Perception speed is about taking in many many pieces of visual and auditory information. It is that basic building block that allows the processing of the information and ultimately making split second decisions and executing them. Soccer perception speed can be trained and practiced at any level of soccer. Regardless of a player’s base level of perception speed, it will get better with continued playing experience. So the combination of practice and playing time will lead to improvements.
Let’s look at some examples of what we mean by perception speed:
- Recognizing that the ball has been passed to you, whether directly at your feet or into space ahead of you. Do you need a shout, do you perceive the ball movement as soon as it is passed?
- If you are in control of the ball, do you perceive movement of your team mates? Do you perceive spaces available to play the ball into?
- Do you perceive opponents closing you down?
It is all about your field of vision and your speed of taking in a sensory stimulus and processing what that stimulus means.
From a practice point of view, we always advocate that players are constantly moving, with or without the ball, and are getting maximum opportunities of ball touches. Questions to ask yourself as a coach when you run soccer drills:
- Are all players moving or are they standing?
- Does the ball keep moving or is it a stop/start situation?
- Are players making contact with the ball as early as possible? This includes attacking the ball as opposed to waiting for it to come to you.
Our soccer practice plans and drills at Soccer Practice Books incorporate all speeds of soccer for any age and skill level.
Some ideas of what is in the drills for perception speed:
- Many small sided 1v1 to 6v3 soccer drills to keep action moving quickly. Drills have rules to make them quick.
- All players except one dribble with ball in a small area. On command, players leave their ball and dribble someone else’s ball.
If you’re watching EURO 2016 you will notice differences between teams, even at this high level.