This is the last article in our series of the seven speeds of soccer. It all culminates in the final component of soccer speed: Game Action Speed. It relies on all of the other components of soccer speed for its execution. It is the ability to make fast, effective decisions during the game in relation to technical, tactical, and conditioning possibilities. The capacity to process information quickly during a game is an individual player attribute. It can even vary within a player depending on the game situation or the emotional, physical, and psychological state of the individual.
In this series on soccer speeds I used a lot of examples from out-players and showed quite a few practice drills. In this last segment I will again offer a couple of practice drills, but I will use an example of a youth goalkeeper to demonstrate all seven speeds of soccer.
Practice Drill 1:
Set up two goals (A and B with goalkeepers), 15 m to 20 m apart. Have two players and one server at each goal. A player from goal A sprints towards goal B and heads a ball thrown by server at goal B on goal B from a distance of 5-7 m. Immediately after heading the player turns and sprints to a second ball played on the ground by the same server (from goal B) and takes a one time shot at goal A. Player goes back to his group at goal A. Now reverse direction.
Practice Drill 2:
Divide team into groups of nine players. Each group of nine is further divided into three teams of 3, each team wearing a different colour vest/shirt (say red, yellow, blue). Set up an area of 20 m by 30 m. The teams play a 6 v 3, let’s say red and yellow v blue. Red and yellow pass (coach determines maximum number of touches per player – i.e. one touch or two touch passing). Once blue steals the ball, they become one of the attacking teams and the team that last touched the ball before blue took possession now defends. Let’s say red last passed the ball and blue intercepted, it will now be yellow/blue playing v red.
Speeds of Soccer – Goalkeeping Example
The goalkeeping example I will use is a penalty kick.
Perception/Anticipation/Decision Making Speeds
The goalkeeper is in the “ready” position. She perceives everything the player who takes the penalty kick does. Deciphering body language she determines if the player is confident or nervous. A confident player is most likely to take a short run up and strike the ball hard. A nervous player may take some stutter steps and is unsure of where to place the shot and hence strike it with less than maximum power. The keeper then anticipates what kind of shot is likely to come. If she has information on the player’s PK preference that factors into the anticipated shot. I always teach my goalies to react to the penalty kick, not simply choose a corner to dive into. This means having anticipated the shot, she now observes the actual movement of the player, their planting foot placement and their body position/rotation before the ball is struck. The decision the keeper makes is where dive to, say lower right (from goalie perspective) corner, mid height left corner, or stay.
Having decided in the instant before the shooter strikes the ball, the goalkeeper now reacts to the actual shot. If the initial decision was correct, executing the dive to the right corner has a better chance of success than reacting to a shot that goes in the opposite corner. In our example the goalkeeper made the right decision, reacted to the actual shot and made the save. The save resulted in parrying the ball to the side and now she must react to the new situation and get ready for the opponents to attack the rebound. In goalie language this is called recovery.
Movement Speed Without Ball
Having been down on the ground and stopped the shot, the goalkeeper must now get up as quickly as possible, get ready for the shot off the rebound and go through the cycle of perception/anticipation/decision making again. She does this without the ball and saves the 1 v 1 situation against the opponent.
Movement Speed With Ball
Having gained control of the ball, the goalkeeper gets on her feet with the ball in her hands. She quickly runs to the top of the penalty box, all the while observing where her team mates are. Ideally she wants to quickly distribute the ball to start a fast break counter attack. Most likely the opponents anticipated a goal to be scored and aren’t thinking about transitioning to defense. The goalie’s team would react to the save and start making runs forward. If the runs are there the keeper can distribute the ball.
Game Action Speed
The execution of the save, the accurate distribution of the ball, and the transitioning sprints from watching a PK to attacking the opposite goal determine the game action speed. If all the other speeds are underdeveloped, this will be a slow process and the opponent will have ample time to get into a defensive position. If all speeds are well developed then the counter attack will be fast and lead to a scoring opportunity within a few seconds.
The difference between winning and losing lies in the seven speeds of soccer.