DEMAND FOR SPEED
In every team sport, we are constantly in competition with our opponent in hopes that the final outcome is victory. The difference between a win and a loss could be as definite as being two to three steps slower, or faster than your opponent. In soccer, speed happens in all directions. The sport itself is very demanding for being able to generate top speed linearly, laterally, and with angular cutting. Very often, the athlete must get to a top speed, then quickly change directions and get back into a full sprint. A forward must be able to make a high speed run off of the ball, receive the ball, and sprint past his defender to get a scoring opportunity. Midfielders have to defend and attack. Most of the game they are at a full speed attacking, then have to suddenly turn and sprint back in order to get into a defensive position. If a defender has to chase down a forward to stop a goal opportunity, they need to generate a high running speed. We have to make sure that our top end speed will allow us to be victorious, no matter what position you are in.
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I recently had a conversation with one of my athlete’s parent regarding not being fast enough on the field. He was not beating defenders to the ball, even though his reaction time was better. In order to become a fast soccer player, we need our running biomechanics to be perfect. Speed is a product of stride length and stride frequency. The more strides we create in a shorter amount of time, the faster we will be. I often observe soccer athletes not generating enough strides because they focus too much on trying to get bigger stride lengths instead. A shorter midfielder will never have the same stride length as a taller defender, but they can rapidly increase their stride frequency to get a much higher top speed. How do athletes get higher stride frequency in a shorter time period? By practicing their technique, of course!
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A stride starts when the ankle, knee, and hip are in full flexion. All three joints then go into a triple extension, where the foot will strike the ground with maximal force and push the athlete forward. The strike must happen directly below the hips, not behind the hips. In our upper body, the arms must swing in opposition of our legs, to create balance and stability. As the right knee is driving forward, the left arm must be swinging forward and the right arm swings back. The elbow angle needs to be 90-115 degrees with very little change. When the athlete learns to generate more arm swings, this allows an opportunity to create more strides simultaneously. By working on the soccer player’s ability to do more arm swings and strides with resistance, moving forward, their body will learn over time to apply the same frequency without resistance. This will get the body moving faster and get the soccer player a higher speed.
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