Best Soccer Speed of Play Drills to Boost Your Decision Making Skills

By Luís Miguel
Updated on

Making a good decision quickly while under pressure is REALLY difficult in soccer.

But it doesn’t have to be!

It just so happens that you can dramatically increase your decision-making skills by doing three simple drills…

…that will help you improve your speed of play in no time.

In this post, I’ll be showing you what those drills… and exactly how you can use them to become a better footballer regardless of your other skills.


I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it 10,000 more times:

Soccer is not about skill and dribbling; it’s about the speed at which you make the correct decision!

This is what separates the good from the great and the mediocre from the good.

It’s just what gives the game its basis.

Those that act — not react — are typically the ones that win.

Being in the right place at the right time is just as big of a deal to coaches as being fast or strong, and in today’s article, we are going to look at ways to increase your speed of thought.

What is “Speed of Play” or “Speed of Thought”?

In the game of soccer, these two expressions are very much key, yet these topics are very rarely — if ever — covered or coached.

Despite that fact, this is something that is constantly being touched upon, even if it is in a roundabout or indirect way.

“Speed of play” (or “speed of thought”) is basically the ability for a player to make a decision in the less amount of time possible.

By taking longer, you can be more accurate at times, but this also puts you behind the curve.

So the best players are those that end up thinking on their feet and then being able to pull off the move they had in their minds.

“Sensing” or Reading the Game

One skill that many assume either a player has, or doesn’t have, is speed.

The same can be said for reading the game as a whole.

Throughout the entirety of my youth career, coaches lauded me for being able to read the game and position myself accordingly so as to prevent dangerous situations from occurring.

They told me that I had this “sense” that others didn’t have. And while they were right about the last part, they are likely wrong in assuming that it just magically happened.

It actually developed within me as I worked on my game and watched other players and matches attentively for hours and hours.

I noticed how the soccer ball would spin, where players would go, and even watched specific opponents in warm-ups.

So, yes you can be a natural at this, just like some people can wake up and run a six-minute mile. But you still have hope, if you have never played before and want to develop this part of your game as well!

Knowing Where You Are and Who Is Around You

Knowing what to do with the football is only something that can be determined — at least to good effect –- as long as you know where you are on the field and in relation to the other players.

For instance, a high ball in the air might require a header if you are under pressure.

In other cases, you can let it drop all the way down or it may be headed out of bounds, if you don’t touch it.

Knowing where you are is absolutely crucial and essential to making the right decisions for both you and the team as a whole.

Soccer Speed of Play Drills

Let’s now move on to the fun stuff!

Here are the best soccer speed of play drills that will help teach your players (or yourself) to be quicker on their (your) feet.

Drill 1: Shoot, Pass, Touch

This drill is a very simple one.

What you need: You need two players, a goal and a coach (or a teammate) to pass the ball.

How to:

  1. Simply pass the football to one of the players and, on your command, yell out one of the three options between “shoot”, “pass”, and “touch”.
  2. Regardless of what you yell, they will need to react straightaway.
  3. To make this drill more advanced, add a few defenders.
  4. To make it even more advanced, stop giving instructions and allow the players to decide what they must do.

This will test them and it will offer you a chance to gauge where they are in their progression.

Drill 2: The Feel Drill

Sensing pressure is a learned skill, but it is one that often separates the best from the rest.

The Feel Drill is all about sensing pressure from behind.

Sometimes, you don’t have the luxury of having a teammate yell “man on!’” at you, so you have to realize when someone is on you.

To do this, you need an understanding of your team’s tactics and strategy, your own position and what the other team is doing.

What you need: For this drill, you need to set up with a player on the ball facing toward goal.

How to:

  1. Simply have various players come from behind and/or the side, and see how you (or your player) do (does) at turning out of trouble.

To make this even more advanced, blindfold the player with the soccer ball.

You can even mime this without the football, so as to not hurt the player. Just make sure not to blindfold more than one person and that they don’t run head on into each other!

Drill 3: Small-Sided Drills

For more technical learning, the best way to develop great decision making is to have your players become great, effective players in small-sided games.

Small sides are simply practice/training ground games where much smaller teams play against one another in a designated area that is much smaller than the regular field.

Because the size of the field is much smaller, it forces players to be very quick in their movements, and more importantly, with their thoughts.

How to:

  1. To make this tougher, force the players to either keep score or for them to go into the defending team if they give up the ball.
  2. You can also force them to do sit-ups, push-ups, burpees, etc. after practice is over.
  3. To step it up a little, you can make the sides uneven at times.

This can help make your team think even harder, whether they need help in defending situations where there are more attackers, or in those situations where they are attacking with far fewer men than those that the other team is defending with!


Developing speed of thought in soccer is much easier said than done, but through these soccer speed of play drills and exercises, along with watching a lot of games and just paying attention to your opponents and the surroundings, you can become a master in a very short amount of time.

This skill has separated, and will continue to separate, the world’s best players from the others.

It has offered many men — like Andrea Pirlo — that were not nearly as athletic as others a very long and successful career!

Now… get down to the training field, follow these drills and take the first step to becoming a better soccer player by increasing your decision-making skills!

P.S.: I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article as I enjoyed writing it for you. If you did, don’t forget to share this post on social media!

Guy wearing an SL Benfica jersey holding soccer ball over his head

Article by:

Luís Miguel

As a true soccer enthusiast, I’m Soccermodo’s team captain. My job is to make sure the site’s content is top-notch so that you, our reader, can focus solely on improving your game and reach new heights.