Play fast but don’t rush.
To some it might seem contradictory to say play fast but don’t rush but for me, this is one of the things that separates good players from great players.
A good player plays full speed. As soon as the ball comes to him he tries to get rid of it as quickly as possible (either by kicking it away, shooting right away or dribbling at full speed). The great player thinks quicker so has more time to make a decision and thus is more likely to make the right decision.
The good player is always thinking in the “now”. What should I do now? I just received the ball where should I pass now? Who should I mark now?
The great player is thinking 2, 3 or even 4 plays ahead so already knows the options and possibilities.
How does one learn to play fast and not rush? For some it comes naturally. For the special few they just see the game differently than the others. For the rest of us, it is something we can improve upon.
First, the better our first touch is the easier it is to play faster without rushing. When our first touch puts us into trouble everytime we will always be in the “now”. When we get to the point where we are consistently playing a good first touch it allows us to plan our next move earlier. Working on the technical side of our game will allow us to improve out tactical side as well.
Second, we have to train at the same speed (or even faster) than we play. If we train at half speed, we will constantly feel rushed when forced to play at full speed. One way to do this is to use small spaces in training to add pressure and force quicker play. Another option is to play numbers down games (teams frequently work in numbers up situations but playing numbers down will force quicker play.
Third, the more we see better players play the easier it will be to see how they handle certain situations. Seeing the “picture” of how others handle certain situations will allow you to figure out the best way for you to handle this situation as well.
Fourth, realize that what happens off the ball will dramatically effect how quickly the player on the ball plays. If they have options before the ball arrives they will be able to play first time balls or play quick combinations but if they have to hold the ball in order to wait for support that will cause them to play slower and feel rushed.
Work on playing faster without being rushed and it will help you progress as a player (and coach). Drills and exercises specifically to help your team play quicker can be found on the DVD, Play Quicker.
Have a great day!