What is Speed? The Basics of Assessing and Analyzing Speed

Have you ever heard of the saying “speed kills”? Speed can be the difference of a win or loss, a point scored, a blocked punt, or even a better race time. An athlete who is faster than their opponent tend to have the advantage simply due to the fact that a faster athlete can move past or approach their opponent in a shorter amount of time. The term speed has been acknowledged as a major component of superior performance in many sports.

In scientific terminology, speed equals the distance divided by time and is normally measured in meters per second (Jefferys, 2012). In the performance enhancement community, speed can be associated with the time taken to cover a distance. Sports performance professionals, strength and conditioning coaches, and other performance enhancement related professionals typically assess and analyze an individual’s speed prior to the start of the season, post-season and throughout the off-season phase. However, the frequency of testing may vary depending on the sport and season. When speed assessments are selected, a coach or administrator of the test should be sure that the tests are not only valid, reliable, and objective to the sport but are also simple to provide a positive experience for the athletes or individuals (Howley and Franks, 2003).

Depending on the environment, assessing and analyzing an individual’s speed can be performed on a court, a field, and/or in an indoor facility. It is not wise to conduct speed assessments on hot summer days or frigid winter days. The risk of injury increases when weather approaches closely to the extreme. I recommend conducting speed assessments at or around room temperature.

Speed assessors assess and analyze speed to determine how fast an athlete or individuals moves and how well he or she moves. The main two factors that determine running speed are stride cadence and stride length (Jefferys, 2012). Stride cadence refers to the number of strides taken per second and stride length refers to the distance traveled by each stride. An impairment or dysfunction with either one of the two main factors that determine running speed can be detrimental to speed performance. When one identifies the problem to one or both factors that determine running speed, one can implement specific drills or exercises to enhance speed performance.

This upcoming summer of 2019, I will be be providing Speed, Agility, Quickness (SAQ) services for those who are interested in improving their athletic performance. Not interested in SAQ camps, but enjoy group training? Share your input on what services you would like me to provide to better serve YOU!


Howley, E.T., & B.D. Franks (2003). Health fitness instructor’s handbook, 4th ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Jeffreys, I. (2013). Developing speed: National Strength and Conditioning Association. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetic.

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