Planning your training season

As a season beckons, the excited coach starts to plan out the season. Books and videos of skills, drills, and games are studied, selected, discarded, reconsidered, until finally every minute of each training session is filled.

But more planning is needed. The prime variables of training are the frequency of training (days/week), the intensity of training and the duration of training (min/day).

In many cases, the frequency is somewhat fixed. A scholastic program might train/play daily (five days/week, as three training days and two games; or four training days and one game), while a club team might train twice per week and plays one or two games over the weekend.

The season doesnt have unlimited training time, and somehow you have to cram in technical skill training, team tactics and fitness. When do you do all this?

Probably, the first thing to do is set up a calendar with your game dates. Here is a four-week schedule of a local high school. Game dates are in red:

Now, everyone knows you dont train hard on the day before a game, so color in the days before a game with light blue:

Here in the South (and most areas of the United States) public schools restrict school-sponsored training on Sundays, so color these days yellow:

Then, most coaches know that it is difficult to conduct hard training on the day after a game color those days gray:

Finally, most people who study training believe training hard on two consecutive days is very difficult to do. So, where there are two consecutive uncolored days, color one dark blue for the lighter training day:

Now, what do you have left? Three days where you can work on fitness (Ill ignore that last Saturday).

You should wonder: Just how is fitness improved during the season?

You might be surprised to learn that when the endurance of soccer players is followed over a season, there is little change throughout the season. The bulk of improvement in fitness happens in the first third of the season, then is maintained for the rest of the season. Some studies have even shown a decrease in fitness.

So how is fitness addressed in training? Because some school districts (and the NCAA) have restrictions on the number or preseason training days a team is allowed, it is very difficult for a team to obtain the needed fitness for the season. So, the coach is left with a series of decisions.

1. Train the players as best as possible in the preseason and hope to maintain it through the season. The problem with this is that while fitness can be achieved in a short preseason, the ultimate level of fitness is low and can only be maintained for a short period of time.

2. Keep training them harder as the season progresses. In order to do this, one has to plan the season around the fitness plan while ignoring the game schedule, and you could end up trying to schedule hard days on the day before or after a game.

3. Give the players an off-season fitness program so that they will show up for preseason training in some degree of fitness (better fitness than option 1), which you can improve to a higher level (than option 1) that is held for a longer time.

With restricted numbers of practices imposed on schools, the ability to bring a team to the level that you want is restricted. About the only real regular fitness training is the game. Therefore, it behooves the players to accept some responsibility for their own fitness.

Now, the problem for the coach is, what do I ask them to do?

Next time: Basic training concepts

Copyright Donald T. Kirkendall, 2002

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