Hello sports lovers, this edition of my column is strictly for those currently on pre-season tours. Apart from the Scandinavia pre-season which is on right now, Nigeria and some countries are getting set to commence their elite leagues.
Every year, coaches are confronted with the same dilemma: how best to get their team into game-shape in the limited time available for the new season to begin.
This period typically ranges from three to four weeks, to twelve to fourteen weeks and with a full agenda on the schedule, which include; tactical and technical training in addition to conditioning.
It can be a daunting task to optimize the training to get the best out of the teams with just few weeks to the beginning of the new season.
Pre-season is also the most critical time of the entire soccer season. It is the time in which the coach set the agenda for training and build good habits without the interference of matches.
It requires proper planning and a step-wise procedure. So, to assist those in the coaching profession, here are 4 out of my 10 simple tactics to keep in mind to ensure that pre-season training is efficient and effective.
1. Use a dynamic warm-up before training.
The optimal way to get your athletes prepared for a training session is to have them do a dynamic warm-up, incorporating movement and speed-approaching those they will encounter in the actual training exercises.
The traditional warm-up of light jogging, but note that the 5-10 minutes of static stretching is actually detrimental to the strength, speed, and injury potential of the athletes.
Begin the dynamic warm-up after about 5-10 minutes of jogging to raise the body temperature and get blood flowing through the muscles.
Follow with several sets of movements; skipping, twisting, quick starts, cutting and the rest, these gradually and progressively approach the intended activity of the training session.
2.Eliminate slow, continuous jogging as a means to train aerobic endurance.
As a general warm-up, for the first 5-10 minutes of training, slow continuous jogging is fine. As a training method for soccer players to increase their aerobic capacity, it is terrible. The absolute best method for increasing a soccer player’s aerobic capacity is interval running/training in which they alternate short bouts of intense running or sprinting with bouts of recovery (jogging or walking).
This simulates the game for which they are training. Also, use small-sided games in an interval format; 4 sets of 4 min. 4 vs 4 games with 3 minutes of rest in-between to make the training as soccer-specific as possible.
Players are much more motivated to train with the ball. Remember, if players train slowly, they will be slow in the game, and that does not make for a winning strategy.
3. Use lines to manipulate the work-to-rest ratios.
Drills with long lines may be bad in certain situations of training; small kids, technical training, and so on, but for conditioning exercises, using lines of players is the best way to enforce proper work-to-rest ratios.
It is imperative for specific types of conditioning that players get sufficient rest between reps and sets. Speed, agility, and coordination work, in which the brain is learning how to control the muscles in an efficient manner, require that the players not be overly fatigued. Organize these drills so that each player has several seconds to a few minutes between exertions. For endurance exercises such as speed endurance, lactate threshold training, and aerobic endurance, lines should be reduced or eliminated so that the players do not get too much rest.
4. Plan on 6-8 weeks to build the necessary aerobic capacity in your athletes.
Coaches must be realistic and plan properly for the start of the season. Unless the athletes come into pre-season with a high level of fitness, it is unrealistic to plan on for less than 6-8 weeks of training to get them to the proper condition for soccer.
This means starting gradually and training in a controlled and progressive manner. More harm is done each year by having poorly conditioned athletes come into the first week of training and running them into the ground.
Often, the injuries picked up from this first “hell week” of training lasts through the whole season. This could mean the difference between a successful season and a mediocre one; and the difference for a young athlete, between a phenomenal break-out season and a frustrating, injury-riddled few months.
Coaches should plan two to three days per week of aerobic conditioning exercises during the first six to eight weeks comprising the pre-season and early competitive season in order to build the required aerobic capacity in their athletes, so that they can compete effectively. It is unrealistic and foolish to plan for anything less.
Having said that, I will write on only these 4 points because I believe pre-season is to sharpen technical execution, develop a team system and style of play, refine fitness level and focus on goal of the season.
And this is what I have started in gearing my squad ahead of the coming season. However, the Scandinavia pre-season is on and friendly games are being played. My team Assyriska Bk of Sweden played a pre-season friendly match against Elsborg penultimate weekend. Although, we won the game by 1-0 but the build up continues till the proper season begins. I have just shared part of my soccer philosophy with my colleagues in the coaching profession, hope this comes in-handy as they get set for the new season.
And to my fans out there, remember to do some sports and poke-in some goals always. Hope you enjoyed this edition? Join me again for another edition, till then, have a nice day.
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