Topic: “Identification of quick-acting players”

A guest article by Gerhard Waldhart, video analyst, SKN St. Pölten

Professional football is characterized by a very high pace of play. The overall demands on today's footballer 2.0, moving with and without the ball, as quickly as possible and in a controlled manner, have increased significantly in their individual parts.

In attacking play in particular, quick action is a basic prerequisite for successfully asserting yourself against increasingly active pressing and outnumbered play. The development can also be clearly demonstrated by the top teams and international football.

Among the conditional performance requirements, the ability to be fast and act quickly is becoming increasingly important. Raymund Verheijen (2000), who compiled speed statistics for Dutch professionals, became certain that the higher the league in football, the faster the pace of play becomes. This requires every single kicker to act very quickly. It's not primarily about the pace of the game, but rather recognizing the right moment for it early on.

In football, speed of action is important

the ability (understood) to act as quickly and precisely as possible in a situation-specific manner based on visual, mental, technical-tactical-tactical and conditional possibilities” (Bisanz & Gerisch, 2008, p.186)

In addition to energetic and neuromuscular requirements (speed), the quality of the speed of action is determined by the best possible technical-tactical implementation (accuracy). Among other things, motivational (confidence in success, will to win) and emotional aspects (uncertainty, fear) play an important role (Weineck, 2004).

In short…..Short time windows ensure quick goals

Using the example of switching behavior in professional areas, studies prove the importance of quickly switching from defense to offense and vice versa. If you look at the game on the offensive, there are very good opportunities immediately after winning the ball to take advantage of the opposing teams' short-term disarray through a quick and goal-oriented attack.

In defensive play, however, it is important to keep the window of opportunity for disorder after losing the ball as short as possible. Regardless of whether immediate counter-pressing is possible or your own team initially lets go to act out of the basic order, extremely quick rethinking is always a mandatory requirement. These elements can be trained at an early age, especially when it comes to speed of action.

Prerequisite for making a decision

In order for a player to be able to act at all, he must recognize a need for action. The speed of perception is therefore a fundamental factor for further subsequent actions. A supported skill is anticipating a game situation. We say in coaching language that a player has to “ read the situation .”

The speed of anticipation is responsible for making a better and quicker assessment of the situation - and depends largely on the experience of the player. This means that the player must have been in exactly the same situation or in a similar situation in order to be able to react/act correctly.

illustration 1

If this particular game situation has been perceived, in technical jargon “anticipatory” , the next step is to make a decision as quickly as possible. The speed of decision-making clearly depends on how many alternative courses of action a player knows and has mastered.

In addition to the cognitive ability, the speed of action is in close contact with the physical requirements, i.e. it also depends on the ability to accelerate and move quickly.

Superstars of tomorrow?

The football market is currently flooded with huge amounts of money and transfer fees are exploding. Players who were unknown yesterday are suddenly worth millions. This of course prompts many clubs to look for young, unknown players.

There is a significant difference in the scouting area of ​​adult football, where you look for specific positions with the associated qualities compared to scouting youth players. When scouting youth players, prospects are not tied to positions, but rather special skills that a young player should have, such as speed of action, are looked for.

The explained components of speed of action can be trained regularly in childhood and adolescence. The basic training (kindergarten to e-youth) should be used to use the tireless urge to move for forms of play. But reaction training through the use of suitable forms of training, with simple reactions and new decisions to be made, is also very important.

These coordination skills are also a mandatory training component in the “golden learning age” with elements that lead to speed of action.

As described in more detail above, the player should, among other things, demonstrate speed of action in all facets described, or at least show this. However, there are clubs that train in a system-oriented and position-specific manner, and where the young up-and-coming footballer often falls short in terms of his or her personal skills.

This becomes visible in transfers, where players find it difficult to move to a new club.

The game with naked numbers and scenes

“Football is not mathematics,” FC Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge once claimed in 2007. Good old scouting, where experts used to cavort in the stands with pen and paper, seems to have reached its limits. Analysis tools are becoming increasingly important in scouting as the development of these tools is well advanced, allowing you to get a good picture of players at the push of a button.

High-resolution cameras record a variety of individual scenes in the stadiums and training centers and round off the impression you get on site.

Live observation the basis in scouting?

The scout sees most of it through live observation, not just in the game, but above all in the training sessions. Of course, beforehand you look at videos of the player to get a first impression. Among other things, it is also about aspects of speed of action, in keeping with today's topic. More specifically:

Depending on the position, the respective player can react/act quickly to the respective situation (see Figure 1) or read the situation. For example, I observe the player on site for a week, i.e. one or two games and several training sessions, then a report is made with video sequences of the respective player with my initial assessment. If the club continues to express interest, a detailed report will be provided about the respective player including data and facts.

Talent alone doesn't make you a professional!!

Talent coupled with a strong ability to act quickly is no guarantee of a career in professional football. For me, the greatest potential lies in the attitude to be a professional and the indispensable desire to do more than others. The sum of all topics, including those that were not discussed here, such as tactical understanding, then show whether the supposed “superstars of tomorrow” will even make it into professional football.

Gerhard Waldhart

About the author
The author Gerhard Waldhart is assistant coach game analysis SKN St. Pölten and has a wealth of experience in football. The A license holder has already had interesting positions behind him, such as coaching activities in the state selections in the Tyrolean association or in the DFB base. His additional training as a qualified sports mental trainer, training as a game analyst at the International Football Institute and a current MBA in sports management at the University of Middlesex in London also show that he thinks beyond boundaries. At SKN St. Pölten, Gerhard Waldhart is responsible, among other things, for video analysis of player development as well as for opponent preparation and live analysis.


Based on the bachelor's thesis: Speed ​​training in football: Investigations into the motor and cognitive components of speed of action in training individual and collective attack tactics (Christian Mosebach, Diplomica Verlag, Hamburg, 2010)

Based on the magazine: Football training “The basis of the reversal game” (published in Phillipka Sportverlag 05/2012, Domenico Tedesco, Münster)

Definition: Speed ​​of action in football (Bisanz & Gerisch, 2008, p.186) Raymond Verheijen (2000)

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