My daughter is working on two aspects of her soccer game right now - speed and ball control. The ball control is subject to Deliberate Practice, which is pretty straightforward. The speed is another thing entirely.
It's a cliche that you can't teach speed, but that's only partly true. If it was entirely true, then sprinters would never practice. Like everything in sports, there is a proper technique to sprinting and the closer you come to the perfect form, the faster you will run. Enter YouTube.
Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, has been videotaped* in slow motion while running. You can examine his form and compare it to your own.
I found this video using my Droid 2 while sitting at the soccer field yesterday, waiting for my daughter's club soccer game to start. It dawned on me that with the little camera I keep in my car and Adobe Premiere at home, I could show her a side-by-side comparison of her gait with his. I grabbed the camera and managed to record at least one good segment of her running. After a bit of work in the Catican, I had something to show her. The results were wonderful.
If you watch Usain's feet, his heel never touches the ground and his toes are moving backwards when they hit. On another site, someone suggested that you act like you're clawing the ground as you run, an analogy that fits what you see in the video. When my daughter ran, her heel hit the ground first and in front of her to boot. In effect, she was running with the brakes on - every landing of her feet pushed her in the wrong direction, slowing her down. Now we've got something to work with.
With Usain's gait in mind, we're going to practice sprinting at the field and videotape her running each time. We'll see if she can get closer and closer to that gait. After she's changed her gait some, we'll time her again and see what happens.
Just a few years ago, comparing your stride to a professional's would have required an enormous investment. Where would you have gotten the footage and the gear to edit and groom the video? With my relatively inexpensive setup where Adobe Creative Suite is the only professional equipment I've got, I can help my daughter, a junior varsity soccer player at a high school not known as a soccer powerhouse, become more like the fastest man in the world. If I can do it, anyone can.
* - Is "videotaped" still the right word even though we no longer use videotapes?