Components of speed
Linear speed efforts often happen while athletes are already in motion. In soccer, linear runs do not often exceed 20m and “45% of goal scoring scenarios are preceded by a linear sprint,” said Hyde.
Linear speed is measured by straight-line distance over a period of time.
“Elite soccer players average 17m per sprint, with forwards, wingers, and fullbacks performing more linear sprints compared to centre midfielders and centre-backs,” explained Hyde.
“To get started, wall drills are a great way to ensure athletes develop the right technique. Athletes should drive their knees forward with force and extend fully at the hip.”
Once the proper technique is adopted, shuttle runs can be included to work on linear acceleration to develop overall speed.
True change of direction speed in invasion sports is rare – 77% of change of direction in soccer games are at an angle of less than 90°. Multidirectional speed is associated with curved angled sprints.
“Athletes who are faster in acceleration usually have greater entry velocities into change of directions, which can result in slower exit velocities. Therefore, it is important for coaches to develop athletes’ eccentric strength, eccentric rate of force, deceleration tasks, and efficient technique,” said Hyde.
To develop multidirectional speed, coaches can set up sprints that involve various changes of direction – cones and poles are helpful in forcing athletes to change direction.
Deceleration efforts are highly intense and should be managed and progressed carefully. According to research, high-intensity decelerations occur more often than high-intensity accelerations in field sports.
“Deceleration can be a very damaging skill and can lead to injuries if performed with incorrect technique. When in-season, be very careful when training deceleration skill development since athletes are exposed to lots of those movements during games,” explained Hyde.
YouTube is a great platform to create a needs analysis for your athletes and contains a wealth of content from elite athletes who demonstrate best practice (hips behind the feet to create breaking force), said the leading strength and conditioning coach.
In games, athletes rarely reach their top speed – research shows athletes reach on average 92% of their top speed.
“Despite not reaching top speed, athletes engage in frequent but brief exposures towards 85-95% of maximum velocity. The goal here is to ‘bulletproof’ athletes’ hamstrings,” said Hyde.
“Coaches shouldn’t focus too much time on top speed mechanics drills, instead they should incorporate drills in the context of game-specific movements in which acceleration and decelerations are common.”