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Five Soccer Speed Skills Every Player Should Have!

by Lee Taft

Soccer, the worlds most popular watched and played sport, has some unique qualities to it. It requires an athlete to move their body in position so their feet or head can play the ball. Most sports require the athletes to use his or her hands one in position. Regardless of the nature of the sport, soccer players need to be quick….Real Quick!

Here are five soccer speed skills every soccer player should practice in order to be the best athletes possible on the field. Plus, if soccer players master these skills, then they can help to reduce injuries when becoming tied up with an opponent.

Skill #1 Angled Stop

The angled stop is a deceleration move which allows the player to change direction immediately. The most important objective about deceleration in sport is to include re-acceleration. If the player only stops well and doesn’t re-accelerate well, then they will be less effective and get beat.

The angled stop is most often seen in drills like the shuttle run. Each time the athlete changes direction they should turn their hip, leg, and plant foot perpendicular to the direction they were traveling at. There is often argument on which leg does the primary deceleration. This issue has to do with a random reactionary change of direction where the player can’t time out the steps, as in a shuttle run and the timed shuttle run where the athlete can lean into the change of direction. In either case, the outside leg needs to be wider than the hips and shoulders to not only decelerate the body but also re-accelerate. The hips should settle and the athlete should be under complete control

The next time you have your soccer players run a shuttle run (5-10-15..) make sure they have their feet, legs, and hips in the correct position so they can gain maximum quickness.

Skill #2 Linear Forward Acceleration

You may think I am going to simply explain about how to accelerate forward...Nope! I am going to explain how soccer athletes need to learn to accelerate from all kinds of varying starting positions. When training soccer athletes I have them accelerate from two feet, one foot, one knee, one foot sideways, two feet sideway…get the picture? Basically because soccer requires an athlete to be in all kinds of stances, then they need to be able to accelerate quickly from each one. The number one movement I want to see during the acceleration is if the athlete can reposition his feet quickly so he can have a great push off angle with his feet. I also want to see the legs, hips, and upper body create a nice line of force so the athlete can be quick off the start and not lose energy due to a poorly aligned body. If you are creative you can have lots of fun with organizing various drills to accomplish the skill of linear acceleration.

Skill #3 Retreat

So You Don’t Get Beat I just explained moving forwards quickly, but sometimes you have to move backwards just as quick so you can stay in the play. A soccer player’s ability to retreat may be just as important as moving ahead. Don’t think just backpedal. Think shuffling and crossing over to create positioning. When an offensive player pushes passed you while dribbling or chips the ball over your head you are going to have to retreat in some manner to maintain or regain defensive positioning. If the ball is passed over you head, then you will most like turn and run. However, if the opponent dribbles passed you, then you will open up and either shuffle or crossover to remain in good defensive orientation. The most important factor is the first step quickness to get into good defensive position. Regardless of if you are moving forwards, sideways, or backwards, a good first step reaction move is important.

Skill #4 Move the Feet Under the Hips

Ok Lee, now you’ve got me confused! Hold on, let me explain. When I need to move quickly in any direction I need my feet to quickly reposition. I can’t pull my body over my feet and expect to be quick. When the feet move from under the hips and drive into the ground quickly not only do you get a better push off angle to work with, you also get the benefit of a stretch reflex in the muscle that shoots me our of my stance quicker. It is a load and explode method. By making sure a soccer player moves his feet freely and quickly into the proper angles to move his body in the direction it needs to go, you will see greater quickness.

Skill #5 Playing In the Tunnel

I have used this phrase for years with athletes I train, especially soccer players. When a soccer player is engaging with another player from the defensive end (or offensive end for that matter) he needs to be prepared to move in any direction quickly. In order for this to occur, the player must be able to push off on the correct angle immediately by moving the feet from under the hips (read skill #4). If the player is standing to tall, then the chance of the push off angle being great has diminished. Plus, there won’t be much power in the push for the same reasons…too tall. When a soccer player plays in the tunnel, he can find a great push off angle instinctively. Remember, the ankle, knee, and hips are still flexed and loaded ready to explode. Simply by staying lower (in the tunnel), the player will have the ability to move quicker. If you execute these five tips you will become a quicker soccer player. If you are a coach, then these five tips will serve as an assessment tool to use when observing if your athletes are moving correctly.

Yours in Speed, Lee Taft