Speed – A New Definition

Altan Ramadan Toffa Leave a Comment

In the 2010 World Cup Quarter Final against Argentina German players on average took less than 1 second to receive and pass the football

Game Action Speed

 The modern game is forcing footballers to develop incredibly sharp decision making skills.

According the seminal book of the development of German football, Das Reboot, the game at the elite level has reached hyper speed.

Time on the ball

In 2005 the average German men’s national team player took 2.8 seconds between controlling and passing the ball.

By the 2008 European Championships, the gap had fallen to 1.8 seconds.

At the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa the new average was 1.1 seconds.  In knockout round clashes against England (won 4-1) and Argentina (won 4-0) the average time on the ball was less than 1 second.

That was 2010.  What about now – can players control and pass accurately in less than 1.0 second consistently?

Any improvements are incremental at best from a physical perspective.

Instead, speed measures need to be compared to efficiency measures such as completed passes, particularly successful passes made that create or lead to goal-scoring opportunities.

The evolution will lead to a questioning of the traditional view of speed.  In future, the attribute of speed will be linked to the ability of a player to consistently achieve a positive outcome for their team.

Old School Speed
Ask most coaches what creates speed in a player and they will answer it is the athleticism of the player.  How fast a player can run is in most cases the determining factor in evaluating if a player is quick or not.

However game-changers, players that can make a meaningful impact on a game, demonstrate speed in different ways specifically the ability to create space or make very quick decisions.

New Definition

Speed does require baseline physical capabilities; a player cannot succeed if they do not pay attention to physical fitness.

However, game action speed goes beyond the pure physical assets of an individual.

A player needs to be able to do three things well if they want to make fast decisions on the football field:

  • Receive information (WHAT is happening on the field?)
  • Process information (WHAT is the best option?)
  • Take action (DO the right thing)

Together these elements dictate the game speed of the player.

More importantly, these elements are relevant regardless of whether or not the player has possession of the ball. Speed of thought coupled with correct decision making make the difference when attacking or defending.

What Can a Player do to Improve Game Action Speed?

There is one thing that all players, at all levels, can do to improve their speed of thought in a game.  That is to develop alert awareness.

The player that gets frustrated loses focus as the does the player that is still celebrating a goal or a well-constructed play.

In both cases this player is not focused on what is happening at the current point in time. They are instead thinking of what has been or what could happen and are not aware of immediate opportunities.

Players need to develop composure.  By doing so they are able to best achieve their targets for the match and support their teammates.

Learning this skill is not just applicable to football – it applies to all areas of life and is essential to maximising focus on a task.

Seeing the Game

Gary Neville, the celebrated Manchester United and England right back recently discussed the application of this ability in The Big Interview with Graham Hunter podcast.  By maintaining composure and controlling intensity in a match a player is able to problem solve and recognise adjustments that need to be made during the course of a match.

Physical speed in football is plateauing.

The future will belong to players who can harness the mental skills required to further enhance their performance.


Das Reboot by Raphael Honigstein

The Big Interview with Graham Hunter (Gary Neville) podcast

Year Zero Talk (Oliver Sifkovits) podcast

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