What is Pace in Football?
It is no secret that, as we get older, we tend to become slower. The same happens with footballers, footballers lose pace. Pace is the basis of modern football. Football as a game is becoming more and more complex and demanding, and in today’s football, pace is one of the most important aspects. It includes the pace of the run itself, the pace of movement, the pace of decision making and the pace of application of the technique. Due to the high rhythm of the game that is a characteristic of modern football, coaches are looking for players who possess these attributes. The pace without the ball itself represents the maximum acceleration that a football player can achieve and maintain at a certain distance.
Pace is one of the most important factors for every football player nowadays. The requirements of a modern football player are such that speed is required from all players, regardless of their position and the role in the team. When it comes to younger football players, this segment of their development is crucial, as with age and injuries, the speed and pace level is gradually decreased.
That increases the importance of constant work on improving strength and endurance, as this makes players less injury prone and their muscles and joints are stronger and more durable, which is especially crucial for them as they get older. When they get older, footballers lose pace, so additional strength training and exercises are a crucial part of training at this age.
Why is Pace Important for Footballers?
Pace of movement is closely related to football intelligence. The player must recognize the teammate’s intention during play, where to play the ball, when to exploit an empty space and when to appear in a certain area. While mostly in the past speed has been tied with attackers and wingers, modern football requires players with speed, who can play all positions in the team.
Running with The Ball | Ball Control at Speed
Another important characteristic of every player is the pace of movement with the ball, or technique. Football does not allow the room for slow reactions with the ball and slow decision making, because in that way the actions of the entire team are slowed down and the opponent is allowed to set up his defence easier, or to exploit the space in attack more efficiently. Effective action during a game largely depends on the pace of the players with the ball, as well as the speed of movement of the players without the ball. The player must know what to do with it before he actually gets the ball. He must take into account all available options out there. Quick decisions and handing over the ball to a teammate are the key characteristics of today’s football, if you want to succeed in competitive matches.
Pace is of greater importance in football than in other sports. It represents much more than just running during a training or a game. It is crucial that all players have pace with the ball in their feet and this especially applies to attackers, midfielders, wingers and defenders.
Pace is Key in Counter-Attacks
For a successful completion of attack in football, pace with and without the ball is essential. Players need to perform dribbling at full speed and move without the ball to keep the movement of the ball quick during the attack. Pace is especially important when it comes to counterattacks.
Pace without the ball is of immense importance. In order for attackers or wingers to be effective, they must move well without the ball. You need to know how to escape from the opponent’s player and use the empty space to endanger the opponent’s goal. Without these attributes, you will not be in a position to prevent the opponent’s goal. Pace is equally important for both attacking and defensive players.
While football before was more traditional and sought high-defensive players, today’s football seeks fast defensive players. Defensive players must have enough speed to catch up with opposing attackers and prevent them from scoring a goal. A football player must have enough speed and endurance in order to be able to respond to all requests of the play during the match. Although it largely depends on the physical prerequisites, the player should constantly work on improving their speed of movement and reaction. It is associated with strength, agility and explosiveness during a game.
How to Prevent Loss of Pace
Working on improving pace is a very important aspect of football coaching from an early age, as footballers lose pace with time. The pace can be enhanced the most between 11 and 12 years of age, as well as between 15 and 16 years. The pace is divided into a starting speed that characterizes the run of up to 20 meters, and a general speed that is developed at a running distance of 40 to 60 meters. Accelerating the movement and flexibility of the legs is extremely important for playing football.
From the earliest starts of playing football, every child must do these exercises regularly. All coaches are advised to work on developing and improving coordination in training sessions. Skipping ladders, cones, groins, hoops, all enable the improvement of the work of the legs, which is of crucial importance during a football match. These kinds of drills may help footballers lose pace at a slower rate with time.
Many games and excessive training affects the consumption of the players’ legs and the pace drops with time. Players have a tight schedule and a lot of training and match obligations, so it is very important that they have enough rest between games and training. A football player must constantly train his aerobic endurance as this can increase durability of his pace and agility. Rest and sleep are very important, as the body needs to have enough energy to respond to all increasing demands.
The Importance of Pace/Speed Training
Footballers lose pace with time, so strengthening physical capabilities is of great importance. With the increase of strength, the football player can run longer and feels much more balanced on the field. Every coach must strive to preserve and develop the speed of his football players. Running technique exercises, coordination, strength and endurance practicing, and explosiveness exercises are all the factors that can greatly affect speed and therefore should be something that is constantly worked on. Appropriate exercises may prevent footballers from losing pace at a fast rate.
When do Footballers Start to Lose their Pace?
When you make your debut for the first team, your legs are fresh and you feel like you can run with the same intensity during the game. The younger player is eager to prove himself and does his very best every second on the field. In his twenties, the footballer can still play most of the game at the top level, but he feels that it is not like that at the beginning of his senior career.
Also, the football player feels that with each passing year, he moves harder and harder because his muscles, knees and joints wear out with time. Already in his thirties, a football player prefers to play with the ball in his feet and keep his position on the field instead of roaming around.
In those moments at the end of his career, there is already a lot of muscle consumption, so the player is much slower than before. The legs have worn out a lot, so footballers in those years rely much more on the technical skills they possess, than on their speed. These are the so-called masters of football. Due to the reduced pace possessed by such players, as footballers lose pace with time, they move to positions that require less movement and running. One such example is Francesco Totti, who revived his career at the age of 38 as a trekker.
How Footballers Adapt to Loss of Pace
When footballers lose pace, they rely on their tremendous experience collected over the years. Intelligence and reading of the game, with proper placement on the field allows them to make up for the lack of speed. We have the examples of Andrea Pirlo and John Terry who, relying on this, revived their careers in their late playing years. Injuries have a big impact on the footballers’ loss of pace and the slowing down of their movements. The loss of pace certainly affects the players who have relied on it the most during their careers. That is why it is very important to constantly work on strength and endurance training.
Players like Javier Zanetti or Daniele De Rossi are not affected by the loss of pace as much, because their main attributes in the game are their strength and endurance. However, the importance of speed can best be seen in the example of Arjen Robben. For many years, he used the same feint that everyone knew about, and yet he always somehow succeeded to beat his opponents. The pace he possessed, the pace of dribbling and movement enabled him to always pass around his opponents with his signature dribbling and it often ended with a goal.
Footballers who Lost their Pace Due to Injuries
Another such example is Spanish football player Fernando Torres, who was one of the fastest players of his time. His best footballing years were while playing for Liverpool and Atletico Madrid. However, the injuries caused the pace he possessed to slowly disappear, so the goals disappeared with it. While he was healthy, Radamel Falcao was a goal machine. He brought numerous trophies to clubs such as Porto and Atletico, where he played. However, the injuries caused him to become much slower, so he struggled for a long time to return to the level he was at before.
Alexandre Pato was a young star from Brazil who came to Milan at the age of only 18. At the beginning of his career in Italy, he scored goals with ease and a bright future seemed to lie ahead. However, serious injuries slowed down the development of this player, separating him from the field for a long period of time. Over time, injuries caused him to lose pace and speed, which were the reason he easily escaped the opposing defensive players.
The pacey Brazilian, Robinho handled the ball so fast that he left the fans around the world breathless. His pace was impressive. However, he had many injuries, so later he was just a shadow of a player who was considered a real magician on the field. He tried to revive his career but the loss of pace as with many footballers losing pace during their careers, did its thing. Too bad for all these fantastic players, from which much more was expected, but injuries took the price.