Testing for speed in football

Before we describe tests to investigate speed, we would like elaborate on “speed” with regard to a football context.

The term speed is used for multiple purposes in football. Generally, it is used for sprint running speed which describes how fast a player can run over a certain distance. However, it is also used to express something quick, explosive and abrupt in action. Following terms will show what kind of speed can be tested and trained:

Straight line speed

How fast can a player cover a defined distances? Sprints with an average distance of 18-20 m are executed in a professional football game (1) - see references below, with the sprint type activities account for 6-12% of the total distance covered (2, 3). Additionally, there are positional specific amount of sprints with wide midfielders and attackers performing the highest amount of sprints in total (4).

Speed as part of agility and/or change of direction

How fast can a player accelerate, decelerate, cut, turn, run backwards etc. Only a small amount of sprints in football are in a straight line and most of the action performed at the players’ highest pace include variations of sprinting. There seems to be evidence that both agility and change of direction are different physical qualities compared to straight line speed (5).


Execution speed of a movement

…is important in any individual technique in football. It describes how fast a player can execute a technique.

Dribbling speed

Handling the ball is a very important component in football. Dribbling speed herein refers to the speed a player can dribble and handle the ball whilst moving in any direction.

Besides the reasons already mentioned why testing is needed, it was suggested that the players individual maximum sprint speed will affect his speed during a game (6). Meaning if your player is slow, he will be slow during game time/competition



1. Di Salvo, V., et al., Performance characteristics according to playing position in elite soccer. Int. J.

Sports. Med. 28(3): 222-227, 2007.

2. Di Salvo, V., et al., Analysis of high intensity activity in Premier League soccer. Int. J. Sports. Med. 30(3):

205-212, 2009.

3. Rampinini, E., et al., Variation in top level soccer match performance. Int. J. Sports. Med. 28(12):

1018-1024, 2007.


4. Di Salvo, V., et al., Sprinting analysis of elite soccer players during European Champions League and

UEFA Cup matches. J. Sports. Sci. 28(14): 1489-1494, 2010.

5. Buttifant, D., K. Graham, and K. Cross, Agility and speed in soccer player are two different performance

parameters. J. Sports. Sci. 117: 809, 1999.

6. Mendez-Villanueva, A., et al., Does on-field sprinting performance in young soccer players depend on

how fast they can run or how fast they do run? J. Str. Cond. Res. 25(9): 2634-2638, 2011.


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