Successfully Planning Pre-season for Your Football Team
Football is one of the most popular sports in the world and for good reason. It is a physically demanding sport that requires a combination of endurance, speed, strength, agility, and power. Football-fit players have the ability to perform at a high level for the duration of a match and recover quickly between bouts of high-intensity activity. Achieving this level of fitness requires a well-structured pre-season program that includes endurance, speed, and repeated speed ability (RSA) training, as well as appropriate recovery sessions. Planning pre-season is crucial for football coaches to ensure their players are prepared for the upcoming season.
Coaches should start with the end in mind and define their goals for the pre-season. This could include improving the team’s overall fitness levels, improving specific physical qualities like speed or endurance, or developing tactical and technical skills. Whatever the goals may be, they should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
Planning Pre-season / Structuring your pre-season program
Typically speaking, a pre-season program should be structured around a macro-cycle of six weeks (this can be longer). It is a good idea to have a specific theme each week, with a focus on endurance, speed, or RSA. This means you are overloading the training time in these areas. The first two weeks of the program should focus on building an aerobic base with low-intensity endurance training. The following two weeks should focus on RSA training with a mix of high-intensity interval training. Before finally developing speed and acceleration with high-intensity interval training in the final two weeks. We will discuss this in more detail in an upcoming webinar – which is free and available to all coaches.
This method means each 2-week block should have an overarching theme. Training sessions can be planned to avoid overload in all areas but development in specific physical qualities. Acceleration/COD (change-of-direction) sessions should focus on developing the ability to change direction quickly with short sprints, plyometrics, and technical drills. Top-speed sessions should focus on developing maximum speed with long sprints and technical drills. Endurance sessions should focus on developing aerobic fitness with low-intensity, steady-state runs, and interval training. Recovery sessions should focus on reducing muscle soreness and fatigue with foam rolling, stretching, and low-intensity cardio.
Planning pre-season friendlies is an essential part of preparing the team for the upcoming season. Coaches should consider factors like team status, injury history, age of players, surface conditions, and weather when planning friendly matches. It is also important to schedule matches against teams of lesser ability initially and progress gradually. The aim is to increase the challenge gradually without being overwhelming.
Planning Pre-season / Getting to know your players
Getting to know your players is also essential for successfully planning pre-season. Coaches should take the time to understand their players’ lifestyles, including their diet, sleep habits, and stress levels. This will help coaches to tailor the training program to each player’s individual needs and ensure that they are getting the most out of each training session.
Coaches can also use technology to track their players’ progress and adjust their training programs accordingly. Wearable devices can provide real-time feedback on players’ heart rates, running speeds, and distances covered. This data can be used to identify areas where players need to improve and to adjust training sessions to target those areas. This is a growing entity at all levels and we will cover an easy-to-follow guide with and without technology in the webinar.
In addition to physical training, pre-season is also an excellent opportunity for coaches to focus on team-building and developing a positive team culture. This could include team-building exercises, social events, and goal-setting sessions.
As I mentioned earlier – for coaches who want to learn more about planning pre-season and football fitness, we will be running a free live webinar in the coming weeks that takes a deep dive into these diverse topics. The webinar will be an opportunity for coaches to learn from experts in the field and get their questions answered.
In conclusion, the pre-season period is a critical time for all football coaches to prepare their teams for the upcoming season. A well-structured pre-season program that includes endurance, speed, and RSA training, as well as appropriate recovery sessions, can help players achieve football fitness and perform at their best.
Starting with the end in mind, coaches should define their goals for the pre-season, and structure the program around a macro-cycle of six weeks. Each week should have a specific theme, with a focus on endurance, speed, or RSA, and each training session should have a specific physical theme.
Planning pre-season friendlies with the correct challenge and taking the time to get to know your players’ lifestyles are also essential parts of successfully planning pre-season. These factors can help coaches tailor the training program to each player’s individual needs and ensure that they are getting the most out of each training block.
By following these guidelines and participating in educational resources like webinars, coaches can improve their pre-season planning skills and help their team achieve football fitness. With proper preparation, players can be ready to perform at their best when the season begins.
If you’re looking for more information, don’t forget to register for our upcoming FREE webinar where we will dive deeper into these topics and provide additional insights and resources to help coaches create effective pre-season programs.
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About the author
Shayne Murphy is the founder and director of SDM Performance. He qualified with a first-class honours degree in Sports and Exercise Sciences at the University of Limerick in 2010. He completed his MSc in Sports Science in 2012 and certified as a Strength and Conditioning Coach in 2013. Shayne has been working in elite football for over 11 years across first team and academy squads in the Premier League, including Manchester City, Liverpool FC, Blackburn Rovers, and Cardiff City. He also spent several years with the Wales National Squads during their international campaigns at U21 level. He currently works with sports people independently and remains a consultant for City Football Group, which is a global football organisation. As part of his role with CFA, he recently led the sports science department at New York City FC in the US for their pre-season. He also works with the Scottish FA as a Football Scientist and a Lecturer at Setanta College.
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