Soccer Preparation

Fitness, Sports,

Soccer Preparation

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Will talks about soccer training and how to train each player to ensure optimal performance and avoid injury and fatigue.


While the main component of this sport is unquestionably the skill of the players and team chemistry, the physicality of the game and its preparation is of key importance. Quite often, the physical preparation in the majority of leagues leaves much to be desired. At its highest level it is very physically and mentally demanding. The game itself consists of 2 halves of 45 minutes each, usually with a few minutes stoppage time added. In the knockout stages of a major competition, an extra time plus penalties are sometimes added. Players perform repeated actions such as sprinting, dribbling, jumping, tackling and having to cover their team mate’s positions, all the while they need to remain as fresh, mentally alert and as energetic as possible through the course of the game. The player must, more times than not, be able to recover in time to be fresh for another game later in the week.

How does one prepare properly for such a sport?

While it is very much a team sport, the training must be individualised to each player to ensure optimal performance. A player must develop as much as possible according to the demands of his position (e.g. defence, midfield, attack) and responsibility (e.g. command or control of certain pitch areas, such as central midfield) on the pitch. The player must have the capacity to perform multiple intensive technical, tactical and mental tasks over a prolonged period of time with minimal recovery time. Many players though, are not sufficiently prepared to perform at their optimal potential. Injuries as a result of overtraining and muscular weakness are rife. It is not uncommon for players to regularly suffer hamstring and groin strains. It makes sense to attempt to analyze why a player has such problems. While this may seem obvious, some coaches continue to train the player the same way as before, usually resulting in the same recurring injuries which lead to inconsistent performances, missed games, loss of speed and a lack of confidence.

The 4 Primary Components: Technical, Tactical, Physical & Mental

Often times, conditioning is separated from the technical and tactical elements of the game. Some players are put through endless running. This raises the problem of over training, resulting in injuries. This is a big problem at the top level. One solution is to include physical conditioning within the context of the technical and tactical elements of practice games and drills.

Training specific game situations makes conditioning far more specific and it prepares players for the actual rigours of the game. Using technical drills (such as crossing, shooting, passing) and specific tactical situations (such as counter attack, possession, high pressure), increasing the intensity & duration (for example 11v11 for 20-90 mins, 7v7 for 20-90 mins, 5v5 for 20-90 mins) of training sessions will enable players to be prepared mentally, physically, tactically & technically. Organisation is the key. It makes sense to train high intensity technical and tactical activities only on days put aside for high intensity work.

Lower intensity technical and tactical activities likewise should be performed on days organised for lower intensity work. At the start of pre-season, training sessions should be shorter and less intense. As pre-season progresses, these games/drills should become more intense, more specific and longer in duration. This will simulate match tactics and increase players work capacity. With good planning, at the end of pre-season, players will be prepared for the intensive demands of the season – technically, tactically, physically and mentally. Some players may need more technical work. Some may need to work on explosiveness drills. Some players may even need to reduce the volume of their training depending on their playing style. It is counter productive to train all players in the same way regardless of age, experience or playing style. All players have specific needs different to each other. By waving training volume and intensity during a training week (high intensity & low intensity days), and by taking individual players needs into account, over training can be avoided.

High intensity tactical training sessions, competitive games and high intensity technical drills should be considered extreme workouts. They require 72 hrs recovery before another extreme workout can occur. Intensive training sessions enable players to focus on increasing the explosiveness of their actions, the ability to repeat their explosive actions and the ability to maintain a high quality playing style throughout the course of a game. All such actions require the organisation of specific drills and game situations. Light intensity training sessions can be used in the days after a high intensity match/training session to perfect technical and tactical skills at a slower pace. They can also be use to implement recovery techniques or even have a day of complete rest. Again, what happens on these days should be specific to the individual players needs. Strength training is also an essential component of pre-season and should be carefully implemented so that the volume, frequency and intensity of these sessions do not detract from the player’s recovery or detract from freshness. This all takes excellent planning and organisation but can result in fully prepared and energetic players when the season starts.

During The Season

During the season, intensive training matches, aside from competitive games, should be kept to a minimum or eliminated. This applies to players who are playing full games every week. For substitutes and players who do not have as much pitch time, intensive technical, tactical and conditioning work via training games may be needed to keep players in peak condition. Because of the demands on players playing games weekly, strength training will need to be carefully regulated while drills for explosiveness and quickness could be incorporated into pre-match warm-ups. Often times, leagues will have a break part way the season. Rather than being a rest period, the best use of this break would be to resume intensive training sessions in order to prepare the players for the next part of the season. This also enables coaches to re-build any game specific fitness that may have been lost during the season.

The Goal

Look at the injury statistics in many top leagues. There are hamstring problems, groin strains and calf injuries to name a few. Many clubs defeat the purpose of training by chronically over working their players from the beginning of pre-season. This accumulation of fatigue leaves them unable to train at full intensity. A well planned and well organised program that incorporates fitness, quickness and explosiveness within football drills and games rather than separating them can go a long way to reducing fatigue and injury problems. It also makes work very specific. Rather than running players into the ground, a program should take each player’s capacities into account.

Do they need rest?

For instance, some players may be able to handle an intensive game, followed by a light technical/tactical session the next day and again followed by a light technical/tactical session the next day after this during the season. Some players may need to rest for a day or two if they are heavily fatigued from a previous day’s game. Do they need recovery methods? Players should be fresh enough to perform at full intensity during games and training sessions that call for it. If they are too tired they cannot do this. Having days where lower intensity technical, tactical and mental training can be performed reduces fatigue and allows players to recover while working on skills throughout a training week.

Rest is important in times of lots of games. Breaks during the season should not be used for rest but intensive training as the players have more time to recover. There is no way to incorporate regular intensive training during busy fixture times. This is one of the reasons why breaks during the season should be taken full advantage of.

The goal of soccer preparation is not fatigued and injury prone players, it is fit, fast & skillful players. That is a goal worth shooting for.


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