Aug 24th 2021
Written by The Coaching Manual
In the first few weeks back players will undoubtedly be unfit or not at the level of match fitness, so making their preparation gradual is vital. However, it’s important not to push your players to breaking point within the first few weeks of training, as losing players to injury during this period is the last thing you want as a coach.
Make it a gradual build-up to the inevitable hard fitness sessions that are required later on in order to get your players match fit in time for the first game of the season. Click here for some warm-up drills that work well in pre-season sessions.
It’s essential to raise your players’ fitness levels so you can start implementing your philosophy with them. With this in mind, the focus for the majority of the first few weeks should be to get your players running with and without a ball. Getting your players into a routine at training is key.
With this in mind, lots of long-distance drills are not necessary however - focus on high-intensity interval running practices, as this is one of the best ways to replicate the fitness needed in a match.
Players can sometimes dread coming back to training with the thought of having to run hard, so it’s important to make training enjoyable. If you do exercises that don’t involve a ball, introducing elements of competition to some of the drills is a good way of engaging the players, but can also help to take their minds off the tough fitness work.
One example could be to make group runs - e.g. shuttle runs - into a race. This creates competition, and what players don’t love competition! Another great way of using fitness is by introducing Mini four/five-a-side tournaments. These types of games have a great way of raising base fitness but in a competitive and enjoyable environment. You can find an infographic on game formats for pre-season here.
A lot of coaches focus on really running their players into the ground and limiting ball work. As previously mentioned, fitness is key in the early stages, but it is important to switch the main focus of the sessions back to ball work as early as possible. At the end of the day, the focus of pre-season should be to prepare the body for the demands of a match - and a lot of that time is spent with the ball at a player's feet.
Click here for a really useful guide on how to build game-specific fitness levels in your players using the ball.
As we know, contact time with your players can be limited - especially at grassroots levels - so encouraging your players to do some extra work away from the training ground will benefit your sessions massively. If you want to go one step further, you can give them tips on how to eat more nutritionally during this period to further their fitness levels.
Having access to TopTekkers can be very beneficial as you can set players some fitness/technical challenges to complete throughout the week when they are not at training.
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