Youth: 3 Tricks to Increase Your Speed, Power & Control
Nov 11, 2019
***This article is part of an educational series for soccer parents and players new to soccer***
There isn’t a single soccer player on the planet who doesn’t want the perfect trifecta of speed, power and control. The youngest player on the pitch wants the physicality of a player twice their age, while the ageing soccer veteran will do everything they can to retain the athleticism of their glory days. Expectations aside, these three traits are essential for a soccer player’s success and longevity. Fortunately, they’re not all a facet of superior genetics, and players of all ages can increase their abilities in all three areas.
Engage in Conditioning & Dynamic Stretching for Soccer
When it comes to developing your speed, power and control, your body is the ultimate machine. A program that incorporates exercises such as weight training, plyometrics and skill-specific drills will do wonders for players of any age.
The fast-twitch muscles will become more efficient at producing an explosive output (which translates to increased power and speed). The brain and its circuits will develop a superior sense of motor coordination that allows players to cut and shift around the pitch without losing the ball.
But here’s an overlooked yet powerful way to improve all three of these facets: dynamic stretching for soccer. For example, FIFA’s 11+ program consists of a series of dynamic stretches that reduce the risk and severity of injuries while simultaneously improving a player’s physicality. That means more speed, power and control.
In a 2015 narrative review, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, authors reported that the FIFA 11+ program can trigger a host of athletic advantages. They include:
- Improved agility
- Enhanced jumping ability
- Improved functional and static balance
- Better hamstring/quadriceps strength ratios
- Quicker stabilization times (of the lower extremities and core)
The beauty of the program is that it is widely available to players of all ages and levels, and it doesn’t require sophisticated and expensive equipment. It’s also easy to execute in a limited amount of time, so coaches and trainers can add the stretches to players’ routines without sacrificing their current regimen.
2. Improve Your Vision and Mental Speed
We’re referring to your ability to develop an awareness of in-game situations, recognize patterns and respond to a plausible scenario before it happens. It’s the understated skill that makes champions what they are.
Think about this quote from retired Spanish footballer Xavi Hernandes:
“Most players I came across were quicker and stronger than me. Decision-making is what controls our physical actions. Some players have a mental top speed of 80 while others are capable of reaching 200, I always tried to reach 200.”
Essentially, Hernandes was saying that if players improve their mental awareness in a game, they will be able to respond to their opponents faster. They can also trick/fake opponents with unexpected movements because they’ve “read” where the player is going before the player even went there. To get a better sense of how this works, watch this video below featuring Cristiano Ronaldo deking a test subject.
Ronaldo isn’t necessarily moving that much faster than his opponent - he’s simply reading his opponent’s projected moves in advance. That amazing mental ability gives the impression that Ronaldo is much faster. With that said, there are three components to this skill:
1) Anticipation - This refers to a player’s understanding of how themselves, their teammates and opponents play, and their ability to read and play the game tactically.
2) Recognition - Habitually scanning the entire field and registering what’s taking place around and away from the ball.
3) Reaction - Where anticipation meets recognition and players swiftly yet skillfully respond to what’s taking place on the field.
Developing this mental skill allows competitors to play a faster yet more controlled game. It takes time to finesse these skills, but there are several techniques that coaches can use to help players develop it.
They include exercises such as wearing an eye patch while practicing to expand your range of vision and loosely tying a player’s hands behind their backs so they think quicker despite having less mobility.
3. Wear the Right Soccer Cleat Insoles
Let’s not forget the importance of your equipment here - it makes a world of difference in terms of speed, power and control. A player’s choices of apparel and equipment can significantly boost or diminish a player’s power, speed and control. It probably comes as no surprise that a player’s footwear will directly or indirectly affect their performance on the pitch.
Scientific research has even dug into how the ergonomics and design of soccer cleat insoles and shoes affect players’ performance. In a study by Sports Medicine Journal, it was mentioned that under optimal conditions, a player’s choice of cleats could impact their speed by 3%. It doesn’t seem like much, but that 3% is enough to drastically alter a player’s performance and execute a game-winning pass or shot.
The same study also noted that a player’s choice of insoles can help improve their balance control, sense of self in space (proprioception) and prevent their feet from slipping in the shoe. This ultimately leads to an improvement in control, allowing players to make abrupt changes in their pace and handle the ball without losing a step.
Storelli SpeedGrip® insoles were built to help players reach new heights in terms of their speed, power and control. SpeedGrip® technology adds grip to soccer cleats so that players can gain extra traction with each step, allowing them to have a higher output of these three skills.
It’s also built for comfort, which is important because a poor fit is distracting enough to sap a player's concentration away from the game. With that said, we’ve seen players report amazing improvements in their performances, with some noting significant increases in their speed.
Speed, Power, Control - They’re At Your Feet
Improving your speed, power, and control requires dedication. It won’t happen overnight, but these skills are completely within your reach to develop with the right approaches and training. If you rely on the three tactics mentioned above, you’ll surpass your perceived limits and make huge strides in your performance.