Would you like to sprint and run faster? There are a few things you can do to help build more speed, but make sure you do it at the right time. I’ll never forget in 9th grade when I also played American football. One of the coaches would have us do ten, 20 yard sprints. We would take off like a sprinter. This is what I think took me from above average speed to one of the fastest kids in high school. In college soccer and as a pro I was always the fastest on my team. Pretty cool for not being that fast in middle school.
The attitude of the fastest man in the world
To help people understand mindset, I often use Usain Bolt (Jamaican sprinter and fastest person on earth) as an example. He has the record as the fastest human in the world, but still had a track coach and would train on the regular. Imagine if he said “Yea mon, I’m the fastest person, so I don’t need a coach. I already know everything.” That’s not the attitude for the best in any sport. Instead he went out and trained hard to become even better. This is the mindset to have for you too.
Amazing story how Herschel Walker trained for speed
If you remember pro football (NFL) player Herschel Walker who also became an olympic sprinter, after his NFL career. His 30 for 30 story is amazing. Long story short, while in middle school he was the worst athlete in the school. He got picked on (beat up) all the time and decided to train his body to be stronger and faster.
The Summer before 9th grade he did sprints at his house, did 2,000 push-ups and sit-ups each day (never lifted weights, even as a pro). He would sometimes pull a sled for short distance sprinting. That’s all he did. The next year he was the fastest kid in Georgia and ended up getting a scholarship to play football.
I don’t think everyone can do what he did, but imagine if he never put in the work. The potential and athletic ability was there, but he had to choose to do the training. There’s more inside all of us if we work hard and do the right things.
Proper form will help you run faster
Once you take off, take big steps to get started. Pump your arms straight and as fast as you can because your legs will keep up with your arms. Bring your feet back with force as you take each step, then extend the leg out for more distance.
When practicing form, make sure that it’s correct! One thing I notice is most athletes have bad form by allowing their arms to come across their body. Instead you need to have your arms stay in line and coming up to your ear and then down to your hip or just past.
As you take off and while you are running make sure you’re not leaning back or too forward. Keep your head steady. Last, contract your core to allow these muscles to help your legs.
Running the right distances to build running speed
One of the best ways to gain speed is by running the right distances. 15 and 20 yard sprints are great for increasing sprinting speed. After a good 10 minute warm-up and stretch, do 10 reps of these short distances, 4 days per week.
Start your sprints by taking off like a sprinter. If you’ve ever seen 40 and 100 yard sprinters you’ll notice they take off with 1 hand on the ground 1 hand up high while leaning forward.
The right strength training
Balance, leg and core strength are the 3 things to focus on. Younger players under 12 years old don’t need to focus on strength training. For ages 9-11 I think it’s okay to do natural body strengthening like core work, lunges, plank or simply playing at the playground.
Older players ages 12-14 can benefit from building muscle through resistance, body weight, balancing exercises, medicine balls, wall sits, core, push ups. For ages 15+ some players can do light weights, but I’m not a fan of heavy weight training at all. Once you’re in college or pro, start to do a little more but they don’t even lift heavy.
Resistance bands, parachute, sleds, tires, sand pits, hills are all good for building your power and speed. Don’t do this, until your running form is correct. Once you use resistance, make sure you pump your arms and knees.
Eating the right foods will help you run faster
Guarantee you that if you eat healthy you will run faster and be healthier. In a previous article eating tips before and after games and training. Food like baked or grilled chicken, fish, turkey are good proteins for strength. Veggies, fruits are needed to give you vitamins. Then make sure you get carbs like rice or pasta for your energy. Hydrate with enough water, especially in the Summer seasons when we sweat a lot.
There’s nothing wrong with having some cookies, pizza or burgers, just know when and how much. Two days leading up to a game make sure you are extra disciplined with your eating. Each day counts and you want to give your body the best fuel possible.
Getting good rest to build your muscles
More than ever before kids are staying up too late. Phones are the main reason. The more you listen to your parents and coaches the better off you’ll be. I can’t stress this enough that you need to get good sleep to allow your brain and muscles time to recover.
Taking naps (all ages) during the Summer is a big help. When I tell kids ages 9-11 they look at me like “I’m too old to take naps.” Older (high school ages) are more experienced and mature so they usually understand that naps do help. Again, the Summer is the main time for this type of rest because it’s so busy compared to the other seasons.
Besides sleeping enough hours, just plain resting your legs is also important. If you have a busy week of sports, make sure you are resting when you can. During the Summer be careful to not be out in the sun too much when you don’t have to. Swimming pools, the lake or anything that has you exposed to the sun will take lots of energy from you.
Run faster with the ball
Running with the ball is going to slow you down, compared to a straight sprint without the ball. When dribbling at speed I wouldn’t worry about running form, but instead keep the ball close, while going as fast as you can. On the contrary, you don’t want to keep the ball too close when there is space out in front of you. Try to keep the ball no further than 3 yards from you.
Practice by sprinting with the ball taking only a few touches in a 15-20 yard area. Try this taking 1, 2 and 3 touches only. If you’re a fast player already, this is something you want to work on. Fast players often take too big of touches and end up losing possession.
When working on your speed with the ball, first get it smooth. In doing this, try the first few times or more slow. Your main focus on being clean. Then try it another dozen times fast. When doing this faster, you’ll probably mess up more or be a little sloppy, but that’s ok. Keep working on the mix of slow and smooth along with going at speed.
Improve your soccer skills the right way
To become better with the ball in tight spaces and to improve your overall skill and confidence get my online ball control courses. 3 levels, Basics, Advanced and Magic.
Basics is to set your foundation. Great for both beginners to learn the right ways. Also good for experienced players to do as a warm-up.
Advanced is a mix of the best ways to control the ball out of the air or bouncing. The other half of Advanced is becoming comfortable with the ball close to you, but not touching it too much.
Magic is what makes players love the ball and soccer more. It’s not tricks, but it is a bit more fancy. The key is to make your muscle memory be able to control the ball in any situation.