6 Takeaways for Coaches from our “Mastering Pre-season” Webinar
In our recent webinar, “Mastering Pre-season: A Guide for Coaches”, Shayne Murphy of SDM Performance and Gary Rafferty of Football Fitness AU presented their guide for coaches to help them plan and deliver their pre-season training more effectively. They discussed three topics they were flagged by attendees in advance as being the most challenging areas when planning and delivering pre-season. This article is a summary of our key takeaways from the webinar.
Mastering Pre-season / Training Load Management
#1 / Everyone should be monitoring training load in some form
Depending on the level you’re coaching at, not everyone will have access to GPS trackers but no matter what level you’re at or what your resources are you should be doing basic training load monitoring using RPE. This can be as simple as collecting an RPE for the session from the players using pen and paper and then inputting it into a spreadsheet to generate graphs, or using a software platform to save you time capturing the data and generating the reports.
Depending on your resources and context you don’t even need to monitor all sessions if it’s not feasible. You can start by tracking your on-pitch training sessions and matches initially. This alone will give you some insightful data into how challenging your sessions are and help you progressively build the load, or pull back where necessary.
The most important is that you have a system that you can implement consistently given your resources and context. Then you can track trends and you’re able to turn up or down the load as required.
#2 / Undercooking is better than overcooking
The first week of pre-season is like the perfect storm. Players and coaches have been starved of training since the end of the season and everyone is raring to get going. It’s so important that you avoid the temptation to start with a tough first week of pre-season though. The players aren’t conditioned and this is your biggest risk week. It’s far better to err on the side of caution and undercook Week 1 and then gradually build your load from there as the jump in load will be much lower when building from a light Week 1.
Then as the weeks progress you can change the variables in your training session so you avoid monotony and progressively build the training load.
Mastering Pre-season / Balancing the Variables
#3 / Keep your end goal in mind
One of your goals of pre-season should always be having a full squad to pick from with the players for your first competitive fixture. So you want to make sure that the players are as well prepared as possible for the physical demands of matches without risking injury at this early stage because your squad will no doubt be tested throughout the season so it’s so important that you don’t go into the season with injuries that could have been avoided by managing your pre-season more effectively.
#4 / Know your players
Especially at semi-pro and amateur levels where the players also have jobs and/or college to worry about, it’s so important to get to know your players, because there are so many lifestyle factors and stressors outside of sport that are affecting them. Even at the top level players may be dealing with family or other issues that if you’re aware of as a coach can help you plan and manage them on the pitch so you’re not pushing them too hard at the wrong time.
Simple questionnaires can uncover these issues as well as other information like nutrition, training experience, and injury history. This can identify low-hanging fruit, like nutrition for example, where you can help players and make a big impact on performance. Again this can be done using Google Forms or using software platforms that can streamline things for you.
If you missed the webinar, click the button below for free access to the recording
Mastering Pre-season / Blending the Tactical/Technical and Physical
#5 / Decide how you want to play and work back
When thinking about blending the tactical/technical and physical, first, think about how you want to play and work back from that. Look at what you want to achieve from a tactical/technical point of view and sit down with your S&C coach and see how you can build some physical demands into the drill.
This approach can be messy at first but you can refine it and improve it week-on-week. Just make sure that you’re evaluating it to ensure that it’s achieving the goal you set out for. This can be done by getting feedback from the players and monitoring RPE or GPS numbers to make sure you’re achieving the desired intensity.
#6 / Risk vs. Reward: Make the biggest impact with the time you have
Time is precious and more often than not it’s limited so it’s critical that you make the most of the time you have. This is where blending the tactical/technical and physical can have a big impact but you need to be realistic about what you can achieve in your context ie. with your coaching resources and experience, your contact time with the players. There’s nothing wrong with keeping the drills you’re comfortable with and the players are familiar with and changing the variables like time, pitch size, and restarts to get the desired outcome.
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