Ever come up against one of those players who just seems to get to every 50/50 ball first? Sure to an extent this is thanks to how quickly they can accelerate, but when two players are equally as fast, what can give one of them the edge?
The answer lies in the speed of one's reactions, how quickly you can recognise the situation that's developing and respond with the appropriate action. Reaction speed can be trained and improved, but it's important to understand that there are different types of reactions - each with varying levels of complexity.
This is the fastest of all reactions and takes the least amount of time for us to process
- There is only one possible response, we just have to wait for the situation to occur
- Example: A sprinter waiting for the starter gun
- Training exercise: The coach/partner calls out various colours with one colour requiring a response. For example when the player hears the coach shout 'BLUE' they must touch the ground.
Here there are a number of possible stimuli, but the response is the same e.g an attempted save
- The more stimuli present, the longer the processing time, the slower the reaction
- Example: A goalkeeper trying to stop a penalty, the player can go in a number of directions
- Training exercise: The coach/partner calls our various numbers with 2 or more numbers requiring a response. For example 1 means jump up and head and 3 means turn.
Here there are a number of stimuli with a number of different responses
- This takes the longest processing time
- The most common type of reaction required in football
- Training exercise: The coach/partner calls out a mixture of numbers and colours, but the action required varies depending on whether they shout it standing up/crouching down. For example RED or 5 means sprint when the coach is crouching, but decelerate if they shout it standing up. Whilst BLUE or 2 when crouching means up and head but when standing means touch the ground.
These are some great exercises you can use in a warmup to create a great training atmosphere whilst getting yourself 'switched on'.