Evolution of Pre-Season Training


Pre-season Training

With the advanced research into sports conditioning and fitness, pre-season training in soccer has changed considerably over the last 20 years. Gone are the days of endless running and ‘doggies’ in order to get your players in top shape for the new season; it is now a mix of sports science, fitness tests and close monitoring of performance from day 1 of the player returning to their club in anticipation of the new season.

Most professional clubs now employ a dedicated fitness trainer or / and sports scientist. Working alongside the manager and coaches, their role may not be exclusive to the first team but to the entire club as a whole. Amongst their responsibilities the following is normally included;

Monitoring of Heart Rate

Technology advancements now mean that player’s heart rate can now be assessed from the moment they step on to the training pitch. A simple heart rate monitor can be worn which gives the management team an overview of a player’s fitness after or even during the session. This data can benchmark improvements or deterioration of fitness over a period of time.

Hydration Status

It is commonplace for urine tests to take place before training and also matches. The importance of hydration cannot be underestimated at any level of soccer, especially during pre-season when there is a high intensity and workload. There is a saying that always rings true ‘If your thirsty, it’s too late’. If a player needs a drink do not be afraid to stop your session – in order for peak performance to occur hydration is a key factor.

Physical Testing

Typically Day 1 of pre-season will involve a variety of tests to see how the players have looked after themselves in the break. These tests may be medical depending on the level of soccer the player is performing at, or more commonly at all levels they will be physical. Tests include agility, speed, strength, weight and body fat. The results will be collated and logged to a database – throughout the pre-season campaign these tests will be repeated to see if performance has improved. They can also be an indicator if a player has a specific individual need that needs to be considered in their training plan.

Nutrition

Half time oranges and cigarette are no longer on the menu for the soccer player of today. Energy bars packed with protein and carbohydrate rich foods are a necessity for your players to perform at a high level especially during pre-season where there will also be an emphasis on gym work. The sports scientist may also recommend a particular diet in order for a player to reach peak performance.

The implementation of a structured pre-season can have major positive impact for your team. As a coach it is our responsibility to ensure that the player needs are met in a challenging and fun way – 2 hours running round a field will not a achieve this so careful consideration needs to be put into your pre-season content.

Remember this; ‘Fitness for Football’ – as long as the session involves a ball, the players will respond in a positive manner. During the close season most players completely ‘switch-off’ so when they return for Day 1 they are enthusiastic to see the ball as soon as possible.

Good luck planning this years pre-season!

Chris Stygal, FA Level 2 Coach

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