Playing fast could mean a few things. Some might use the term to move the ball with faster speed of play. Others could mean touch or dribble the ball faster. One of my high school trainees told me that college coaches were giving feedback on her strengths and weaknesses in matches. ‘Playing fast’ is some of the feedback she’s hearing. They are telling her she could be faster with the ball. My first question was how are they saying this? Is it they want you to play with quicker touches on the ball or improve speed of play? These are two different things. A player could be great at one and struggle at the other. Below I will help you understand what coaches want and how you can improve in both areas.
Knowing the difference of playing fast vs speed of play
What we don’t know we can’t use as powerful as if we do know. Like the high school player I train who was explaining what the NCAA soccer coaches were communicating with her. This player is very good and is getting scholarship offers, but even with her playing experience, she didn’t understand what the coaches were saying/wanting.
Ask your coaches questions
Ask your coaches questions. There are so many soccer terms and ideas that it’s only to your benefit to ask more questions. Sometimes the best times to ask is 1 on 1. It might be a tough question that the coach needs time to think about. Better to keep from embarrassing the coach by putting them on the spot in front of several other players/coaches. Just because they coach college doesn’t mean they know everything. Every coach is still a student of the game. The best coaches are humble and always wanting to learn. Nobody knows everything.
Playing fast with the ball at your feet
This could mean that you are taking 2 touches or dribbling – taking 10+ touches. In short you need to practice taking touches as fast as you can. There will be moments in games that you need to do this. It’s not that you need to play like this all the time, but at least have the knowledge. It’s important to first get things smooth and correct, but then practice it at speed.
As a player you must know when to speed things up and slow them down. This way the defenders never know what you are going to do. Too many players are predictable. They either dribble all the time or others will just get rid of the ball right away. The players who can do both are harder to mark.
3 examples of playing fast
- One example is watch the difference from top world class futbol/football like Champions League level, compared to Major League Soccer. You can see the difference when it comes to playing fast. Players in Europe literally at times touch the ball as fast as they possibly can. There are times when the pressure is so high that they have to dribble / touch the ball as fast as as they can, just to keep possession. Even in South America the play is slower and I think one reason is the temperature being so hot compared to in Europe where it’s cold most of the season. Players are going to play with more pace throughout the game when it’s not super hot temps outside.
- When I think of women footballers who are always playing fast I think of Rose Lavelle. In my opinion she plays faster than any other players on the USWNT. It doesn’t mean her speed of play is fastest, but just her touches on the ball. A player that is opposite of her is Sam Mewis. She is not the quickest player by any means, but she has a quick release. Meaning her speed of play is fast. Sam can take 1-2 touches and keep the ball moving in possession.
- Dribblers like Hazard (Belgium National Team) or Neymar (Brazilian National Team) can play with both styles. They can play the quick 1-2 touch style or they can dribble players successfully. Hazard seems to play with quicker touches, while Neymar will slow things up with his touches and then blow past defenders when he wants. Neymar has more break away speed at the same time quick lateral speed with the ball, where Hazard is better in tight spaces.
Improving your speed of play
Many coaches will tell players that their speed of play needs to be faster. I think what youth coaches could do better at is explaining what speed of play is because many kids & most parents don’t know. Again, knowing is half of the battle in most things. If we don’t know what something is, how can we fix it. If we do know, then all we need to do is put in the work by practicing.
To improve your speed of play it’s vital that you first focus on the fundamentals of trapping and passing. Then work on drills like this video of quick 1 and 2 touch passing situations so that in games players can replicate the situations.
You can be the slowest person on the field, but if your 1st touch and passing are on point you’ll be valuable. After that it’s communicating with your teammates how they should play with you. Teammates need to understand when they need to play to feet or into space. It doesn’t make sense when a player passes to a slower teammate into space. Slower technical players need to have balls played into feet and then by supported by off the ball movements.
Rondos (monkey in the middle) type games are great for teams to work on speed of play. I’d mix of opposed and unopposed training to get players clean on the ball and used to pressure.
Soccer drills to help playing fast
Put yourself in game like situations where you have to trap, dribble and pass. These are 3 of the most important pieces in soccer.