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5 tips to increase your Speed of Play

updated on October 10th 2023

7 mins read

If you compare two matches - a professional one and an amateur game, one of the biggest differences you’ll see is the speed of play.

While in amateur matches, you’ll see players often being able to control the ball with 2-3 touches, look up to search for their teammate, and then pass the ball - in professional football, this is rarely possible.

Here, the ball has to flow much quicker, which means that players have less time to read the game, make decisions, position themselves, and execute what they were planning to do!

And as this is one of the most important abilities that coaches and scouts will evaluate you on, we have prepared 5 tips for you on how you can increase your speed of play!

Tip 1: Master your technical abilities

The foundation for everything here is your technique, starting with your ball control. If you’re struggling to control the ball, you will never be able to progress to higher leagues.

So if you identify this as your problem or don't feel comfortable enough, this is the first thing you should start with. And even if not, your ball control is something you should never stop practicing and improving. So make sure you train this every day!

But obviously, it doesn't stop there. Once you have received and controlled the ball from your teammate, it’s time to do something with the ball. Whether that's a pass, a dribbling, a cross, or a shot on goal, you'll also need to be able to execute those actions quickly, precisely, and with the right intensity to keep up the tempo!

Tip 2: Constantly scale the tempo and intensity of your training

This touches on the first tip but is so important it needs to be addressed once again in a separate section! In order to actually be able to control a ball and perform any action with the ball in a high-intensity match, you actually have to have performed this move in a similar situation before.

You can't practice something only at a low/mid-tempo and then expect to execute the move the same way when doing so in the heat of a game.

That's why it's so important that once you have mastered the exact movement of the skill/ability, you don't stop there! Instead, you have to constantly increase the tempo, intensity, and difficulty in practice so executing the move in a match is not any different than how you did it in training.

In addition to practicing those individual movements such as your ball control, passing, shooting, or dribbling at a high tempo, you also simply need to put yourself scenarios where in which you are forced to play quickly. Here are some examples:

  • Matches in your team training
  • 2v2s / 3v3s in team training
  • Playing against older players or players that play in a higher league than you
  • 5-a-sides / futsal / small space matches with only a few players per team

You can also always put your improvement to the test in your regular league games by asking for the ball in tighter situations where you know you'll have less time than usual to control and do something with the ball.

Tip 3: Work on your awareness and scanning

A very effective skill that can also help you increase your speed of play is scanning! To reiterate, scanning means looking at everything behind/around you and analysing your surroundings.

With just one or two looks, you should be able to know:

  • Where are my teammates?
  • Where are my opponents?
  • What options and opportunities do I have?

It's also important to scan before you receive the ball. This allows you to already decide on your next move while the ball is coming to you, so once you touch the ball, you can directly execute what you had in mind.

And don’t worry! Even the masters of scanning such as Xavi, Toni Kroos or Thomas Müller had to practice this skill in order to do constantly increase the speed and quality of their scanning!

Tip 4: Improve your stamina

The longer a match goes on, the more your body, your muscles, and your mind will fatigue.

Your movements become slower, you might not be scanning as well as before and therefore need to take a 2nd or 3rd look and take one more touch than usual to control the ball.

This will of course decrease your speed of play.

And the reason for this is simply that your endurance and stamina are not good enough.

Instead, if you want to be able to play at a higher level, your body needs to have enough energy and breath to keep up this high speed of play for the entire 90 minutes!

So while working on your speed of play, don't neglect improving your stamina too!

Tip 5: Improve your game understanding and decision making

Let's have a quick look again at tip 3: Scanning is the way you get the information on what's going on on the pitch. But without proper game understanding, you can't really capitalise it.

In a matter of seconds you need to be able to comprehend your surroundings as well as identify opportunities and options for what to do with the ball. Should you pass to a teammate, go into a dribbling, take a shoot at goal? Making quick & smart decisions is core to being an outstanding player.

But this again, is something you need to practice.

One of the best methods for this is to watch live matches and to analyse the decisions that the player in your position is making during the game and to see the effect of it.

Additionally, you can also film your own matches, specifically analyse your decision making during the match and see if in hindsight you might find better alternatives and try to apply your learnings in your next match!

If you wanna go a step further you can also watch tactical analyses that study different game scenarios, analyse the ideal player movement and how you can apply the learning to your own game.

The best & easiest way to find them is on the Train Effective app. On there you can find 100+ tactical analyses created by Premier League analysts. Just download the app, go to the 'Learn tab' and enhance your game intelligence!

But the Train Effective app is not only limited to that:

  • Boost your confidence & build the mentality of a professional player with the Rio Ferdinand mentality masterclass
  • Get access to 200+ drills & exercises to master your technique
  • Work on your stamina with our fitness training programmes
  • Create a personalised training plan to focus on your individual strengths and weaknesses 
  • Stay motivated by emerging yourself in a community of like-minded player

… and many other features that will make you a better player!

So download the Train Effective app now, increase your game understanding, improve your speed of play and show the world the player you've always been destined be.

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