SAQ – what’s it all about?


Over the past few years many training techniques have come and gone but one seems to have gone from strength to strength – SAQ. Speed. Agility. Quickness. All 3 are key components that will assist any soccer player in a competitive environment, so what is it and how will it benefit my players? Read on to find out more….

SAQ Training targets the neuromuscular system; a combination of muscles and the nervous system that work together to permit movement. It does this through repetition and quick, explosive exercises. The more you perform a movement the more familiar your body and brain get with the action. For example, when coaching a young player a ‘step over’ the first session they may struggle but as the weeks go by you will see they are executing the move instinctively rather than having to think about it.

Repetition is key to SAQ. In order for the player to perform an effective movement and improve they need to have the opportunity to repeat the exercise regularly. If you are holding two training sessions a week with your team do not hesitate to use the same SAQ drill both times and try to keep it game related. In soccer you have short bursts of pace and changes in direction, which can be emulated in an SAQ drill. I normally introduce a ball as part of the session so the players are engaged, which I will explain further in the session below.

1) Player performs quick feet through the red cones approximately a foot apart; if an agility ladder is available this can be used as an alternative, or also small hurdles. Can be progressed to two footed jumps, hops, backwards running, sidesteps.

2) Player performs sidesteps from left to right or vice versa through the 4 blue markers.

3) Player reaches the coach who has a ball – player performs one of the following; a left foot / right foot volley, chest and return, pass and spin, header or any other quick movement with the ball. Note the coaches position – he / she can see the whole drill and step in accordingly.


The whole drill takes approximately 10 seconds per player; they then have a rest whilst their teammates take part then continue again. One thing I do to add some fun to the drill is replace the where the coach is with a ball on the floor. You can have 2 teams competing against each other, when they reach the ball they perform 5 kick-ups before their teammate can go.

A typical SAQ session can be from 5 minutes long to a maximum 20. This may seem short but long-standing quote ‘quality, not quantity’ is relevant in the SAQ environment. This gives you the opportunity to integrate a relevant drill into your training session even if you only have an hour available.

Your responsibility as a coach will be to ensure that the technique the players are using are accurate in the drill you set up. As they are repeating the same movement time and time again, if you do not highlight an incorrect movement they will be training their neuromuscular system the wrong way too, therefore defeating the aim of the drill.

Many professional clubs now hold dedicated SAQ sessions or integrate it into their daily training program. Stevenage Borough FC of League One recently attended SAQ International and the players completed a Performance Sport Movement (PSM) Award.

As coaches we all want to improve the players that we work with and SAQ can help us achieve this goal. You don’t need any fancy equipment, as long as you have cones and a ball there is nothing stopping you putting on an effective session. One of the beauties of SAQ is the drills are relatively simple to set up but the effectiveness is substantial when repetition occurs.

There are plenty of resources online and media available to buy. There are also specialist diplomas and courses you can take if you want to expand your coaching armoury further.

In summary remember the key aspects – repetition and short bursts – the more often you practice, the better your body and mind will respond and the more effective your players will become.

Chris Stygal, FA Level 2 Coach

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