8 Weeks Soccer Pre-Season Plan – Part 1
Since the soccer is the most important secondary thing in Europe and pretty popular in Serbia (it is beyond me why, because we suck), and since I started working for the first time as physical preparation coach in soccer I decided to write down this 8-weeks pre-season template.
I have also summed my work experience and preparation philosophy from 2007 in the 200 pages long manual entitled Physical Preparation for Soccer. The truth is that I have ‘evolved’ from writing that manual and the reason for writing this template is to actually see where did I evolved in my philosophy. The periodization info from the manual is confusing and during that time I was in the pro-interval camp (bitching on aerobic training). There were also some questions that bothered me during that time period that I hope I have solved and provided some answers (or at least more questions), mostly by following more pragmatic, contextual/ecological and complementary philosophy and ditching dogma and either/or thinking.
Another thing that the readers should check before reading this template is my analysis of sport games structure (soccer is included) available here along with the short rant about endurance development in this one (make sure you read excellent series on endurance development by Lyle McDonald).
Why 8-weeks? It is usual in Serbian competition calendar that there is a transition period between two halves of the season, and usually the 2nd preparatory period before the next half of the season is around 8 weeks long. Because I am using Western terminology I am calling this preparatory period a pre-season since the soccer club is organizing preparations and training camps with the whole team.
It is important to mention that this 8-weeks pre-season plan is pulled from the bigger picture of annual plan and that’s why it is lacking certain context. So to plan it, I will assume couple of things:
1. First game of the rest of the season is happening in 9th week and the team should be in certain peak (sport form) during that time. Why, you may ask. Because starting the rest of the season with a good performance and a win is really a good thing for building up the confidence of the team (especially depending on the previous half of the season performance). Sport form (peaking) will fluctuate during the rest of the season based on competition calendar (opposing teams and importance of the match), peaking index (for more info see Usage of subjective indicators in monitoring and programming of training) and the results, but it is important to start and finish strong. Everybody is waiting for the performance on the first game. Let’s give them something to think about.
2. It is important to have at least 3-4 full time friendly games (90mins) in the weeks preceding the first game, so it is important to plan them accordingly and progress to full game over certain period of time
3. I am assuming the lower level of the athletes in the strength training (as it is normal with soccer players), no injuries, and a little bit of de-training in the transition period
4. I am also assuming availability of all the equipment, fields and facilities necessary to run this template. Of course in most of the cases that is not going to be the case and the template need to be tweaked.
5. I am assuming a lot of other things that I can’t remember at the moment, so please note that this is ONLY a template, pulled out of the bigger context of annual plan and it is questionable if it fits your specific situation, need and goals. I will not go into annual planning in this blog entry especially not into the in-season planning and how to progress from pre-season plan to in-season plan. Maybe next time.
Since the preparation system involves (1) training, (2) recovery and (3) competition, training components represent subgroups of training and include:
1. Technical preparation
2. Tactical preparation and decision making
3. Physical preparation
4. Psychological preparation and mental toughness
5. Athlete character and communicational skills
6. Strategy and game plan
7. Theoretical preparation
Each training component has even more subtypes and I will get into physical preparation component deeper a little bit later. Please note that recovery procedures could also be listed, along with nutrition and supplementation which can be subgroup of theoretical preparation.
Before setting goals for each training component we need to go through three-level analysis system that I have been mentioning in recent articles:
Although we are using only the first two levels, the third level is also important. Third level of analysis (Training load analysis) should give us some insight into the previous work done by athletes, so we can have certain starting point in terms of types of training they are accustomed doing and the level of stress they tolerated which may indicate working capacity of the players, along with injuries tendencies and types. This could be helpful in designing of the training program.
I am not going into the game analysis and the game demands in this article. A lot of research papers could be found online that goes into the analysis of the game and provide concise numbers and needs for all training components. In the picture below you can find demands for each position from FIFA manual and this is only a glimpse and very simplistic, so use it only as a starting point and as an example.