Developing Your Speed For Football Pt 2... Fast Feet & Reaction Time

Speed in Football can refer to many aspects of the game. Speed of ball movement, quick decision making, a team’s fast transition from attack to defence, or from defence into a lightning quick counter attack. Reaction time ad quick feet on the football pitch will make any player have an impact, and you don’t necessarily have to be the most athletic player out there. I remember as a child, I used to do a dance of sorts! I would run on the spot and see how fast I could make my feet hit the ground. Strange I know, but I remember very well how I would make my feet go so fast that my whole body would vibrate and the noise of my left and right foot alternately hitting the ground became an indistinguishable reverberation of sound. I’m out of breath thinking about it! However, I now know that what I was doing there as a young child was training my feet to react fast, it was activating those fast twitch muscle fibres, creating neural pathways for my feet to move fast when I wanted them too, and helped me to cut a rug at the school dance;). It was also in essence a basic fast feet drill. Fast feet drills were a constant throughout my development and professional career. Today I am going to share some tips and things that have worked for me through my experiences on two aspects of speed, Fast Feet and Reaction time.

Fast Feet

Warmups and individual training towards fast feet movement can provide that edge in tight spaces of the field when you need to be quick and light on your feet. Things that can aid in this are speed and agility ladders. Speed and agility ladders, speed rings, or speed hexagons are simple and cheap pieces of equipment that work on your speed, agility, and the coordination of complex motor skills. This is especially important for young players who are just finding out how their body moves with different stimuli and at different speeds. Personally, I start every training session warm up with differing ladder and short sharp speed drills with my u9 SAP team. I have noticed the difference not just with speed but the coordination of player’s footwork when they are on the ball, twisting and turning in concentrated areas. I try to introduce a new combination of footwork sequences each week and build upon the already learnt combos by getting the kids to go quicker and compete side by side with teammates. There is any number of combinations, and it has improved not only their fleet of foot but also their speed of thought. At a young age such as 7-12 years players are like sponges, the more we can develop those complex motor skills through Football the faster we can develop there overall game, confidence in the player grows and their parents are thrilled with their child’s development from week to week.

Reaction Time

Reaction time of a player is of the utmost importance on the football pitch. It can be the difference between a player getting to the ball first with a goal saving tackle or reacting quickest to a loose ball in the penalty box and scoring the winning goal. This is because speed of thought and quickness between the ears is not necessarily associated with being the fastest runner, and one of the reasons that an experienced older player can dominate a younger opponent by using guile and picking up on certain cues within the game whilst it is being played at a high tempo. It is also another aspect of speed that is a benefit of having a personal individual coach. Obviously reacting to an external call, noise or signal is going to develop your reaction time to a much greater degree. I like to use coloured cones to provide a stimulus. An example would be the player on there toes facing away from the cones, I make the call ‘blue, red, white’, the player takes in the information at a rapid pace and their body must react. This is great for kids, and there is a multitude of training techniques and accessories for this type of practice. Another way I train my clients is to offer no sound at all. For example, I will stand behind a player they pass the ball against a wall and then perform a head check over their shoulder to see which way I am pointing them to go, then they must react whilst controlling the ball, and running at speed. There is also equipment on the market that provides a flashing of coloured light stimulus, the light will go off in a sequence and the user has to follow that sequence by touching the alternating ‘pods’. Although this is a more expensive route to go down, it has benefits. The first couple of steps when reacting are the money steps! They are the difference. So, I encourage my players to be on the balls of their feet, be ready to move forward by leaning into a 45-degree angle, and to drive with maximum force through the arms and knees. A player should always anticipate where the ball may fall, reacting to the spin, surface type, wet or dry and so on, but that’s a different topic altogether. I used to love watching players like Michael Owen who always seemed to react first to the ball. Overall, by training our kids with these two concepts in mind we will find that the time it takes for the signal to go from the brain to the body part will get sharper, quicker, and will develop our young players into confident capable players.

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