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FITNESS Training for speed 2

Peadar Gardiner

Speed for sport

Personal Trainer

Paul O'Brien

Last week we examined the key questions to be asked when establishing a speed training program for team sports (see We saw that setting a goal for the season ahead is the first step. Goal setting should be done in consultation with all squad members, as well as coaching and training staff. These goals should also be drafted these into a training plan for the year and regularly revisited to aid motivation.
The next step is to identify training needs for the pre-season and early-season period. This is the key building phase for the team. It’s the time to work on those needs identified by coaches and trainers. Without identifying those areas of development, there is no way a team can peak at the right time during the championship or season. Practice matches in pre-season are the time to address this stage of planning. Over the course of two to three games, coaching staff can identify and draft a list of individual and team skills to be developed.


In terms of training speed, there is a number of aspects to be considered. For the purposes of clarity, I will use a senior Gaelic football practice match as an example. During the course of a game, coaches should be looking for the following:

Straight Line Speed
Identify areas of weakness in individual players over varying distances. In a game situation, players sprint between 5 and 50 metres distances. Some players may be quicker over shorter distances but fade as sprints extend beyond 20 metre. This does not matter a great deal if you play full forward and would rarely need to sprint more than 20m. If you play in centre field, however, and may have to sprint beyond 20-25 metres many times in a game to track back or make supporting runs, being unable to sustain full speed beyond 20-25 metres may cost your team dearly.
Players who are quick off the mark but quickly fade should work on developing power and be assigned drills and exercises to address this need. Players, who have the ability to accelerate beyond 25 metres but are very slow off the mark, need to develop accelerating speed. This is a different type of speed development, using different drills and exercises. The point here is that all speed training is not created equal. Identify the specific needs and train accordingly.

Co-Ordination This is another key aspect of speed training and development. Co-ordination includes reaction time, balance, agility, quickness of feet (foot-speed), awareness of space, changing direction at speed, establishing rhythm and turning speed. These elements can be trained with the proper drills and exercises and should also be identified during pre-season practice games.
Incidentally, it helps to have a team of two or three coaches at these games. Each coach can be assigned a particular aspect, perhaps even two per game. Following each game, a comprehensive training needs analysis can then be drawn up.

Speed With The Ball
This could be included under co-ordination, but I have separated it here for one reason: Initially, it is important to address drills without the ball. Once players have improved the aspect being developed, the ball is introduced.

Strength And Flexibility These are both key aspects of speed. As I’ve said to many athletes I’ve worked with in the past, ‘If you’re not strong, you can’t be fast’. The type of strength I mean here is specific to muscle groups required for particular aspects under development. A muscle needs to be strong and flexible to help maximise speed capability and avoid injury.

Next week Creating effective drills for your sport. If it doesn’t happen in the field, it doesn’t belong in the training plan.

Paul O’Brien is a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise and a qualified life coach. He runs his own business in Westport and is the creator of Bootcamp West, an exciting and challenging exercise programme in Westport. For details of upcoming classes, visit or e-mail or telephone 086 1674515.