03. Performance

7 Sports That Demand Fast Reaction Speeds

September 23, 2016

In sports, what means the difference between a win or a loss? While many factors are at play, sometimes it boils down to an athlete’s ability to react quickly under pressure. Athletes with faster reaction speeds than their opponents could have a competitive edge. This is especially the case when critical plays are involved. In terms of quick reaction times, however, not all sports are created equal! Some sports are more heavily dependent on this factor than others. Explore our list below to find out more about the 7 sports that demand fast reaction speeds.


In hockey, goalies have arguably the most difficult job – they have to stop a frozen, six-ounce puck that races directly towards them at speeds sometimes above 100 mph. Difficult enough under normal circumstances, but even more so when you are wearing about 50 pounds of equipment!


In soccer, some players can kick the ball as fast as 70 mph, but it can be even a lot faster than that. In fact, the fasted recorded speed of a kicked soccer ball is 131mph! In addition, a soccer goalie usually only has about 0.3 seconds to react to a penalty kick. How is that for a challenge? Fast reaction speeds, therefore, are imperative in this sport. It allows a team to score more goals, defend better and win more 50-50 balls, which increases overall possession.


An average serve in this sport can travel faster than 120 mph. Tennis players have to anticipate their opponent’s every move. It takes incredible skill to have your body and mind function both independently, yet cohesively. The ability to react in a quick, reflexive manner to certain stimuli is fundamental in tennis. If you fail to do so, it could cost you the game!

A major league pitcher can throw a baseball up to and beyond 95 mph. The batter has to wait for the precise moment to swing at the ball, sometimes in one-tenth of a second! So, in this sport, a player’s ability to anticipate and react quickly is everything. By the time the ball has traveled within 12 feet from the pitcher’s mound, the batter has already anticipated it if it’s a curveball, slider, knuckleball, screwball, etc.

Table Tennis

Table tennis ping pong

Photo Credit: Gaël Marziou under CC BY 2.0

In this sport, concentration and alertness is paramount! Professional table tennis serves can reach speeds up to 90 mph. If you take into account the distance between the two players, you will see that the ball takes about 0.1 seconds to reach the other end. So while the actual table tennis ball may not travel as quickly in terms of speed than in other sports, the players have a shorter time to react. You also have to take into account that these players have to ‘read’ the spin, to apply an effective counter shot. In other sports, the balls travel faster, but in larger areas, so they have more time to anticipate a play.


In boxing, the ability to react quickly is a standard expectation of being a fighter. If anything, boxing is a true test of one’s reflexes versus another’s. To survive the round, or even go on to win the match, it’s not just about being fast. You have to train your cognitive abilities to better anticipate your opponent’s next move. This will be the difference between jerking your head back instinctively and slipping back to counter with a knockout punch.


bike race

When a driver travels at 200 mph in a race car, reaction speeds become critical to his or her safety. These drivers require multifaceted cognitive and physical abilities when it comes to their ability to react rapidly under pressure and multitask.

Many factors affect an athlete’s reaction time speed, particularly in terms of having the correct reaction to complex situations or when there is a decision-making process involved. While physical reaction time is difficult to improve, mental reaction time is trainable. This is because the brain has potential for considerable improvement when conditioned in the right way.

Each athlete may have different methods to try to improve their reaction speed times, but cognitive training is a consistent method with beneficial results. To increase your overall attention and awareness in competitive play, consider strength training your mind. With NuTrain, you can improve the processing speed of your mental reaction times to achieve a competitive edge!

Cover Photo: WorldSeriesBoxing under CC BY-ND 2.0

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