A successful pre-season program is one that incorporates all of the necessary components to have the players maximize their performance when the season commences and to be able to sustain peak physical condition throughout the season.
The program should take into consideration the physical demands of the game, the level of fitness the players are at, what their goals are and what they are aiming to achieve.
These fitness components often vary with the individual player, the positional role in the team and the team’s style of play. So developing a suitable program requires a well designed pre-season training program that addresses the specific demands on each player.
The pre-season period
A pre-season preparation period covers the period from the beginning of team-training until the first official match. The length of these training periods may differ from one country to another.
During this training period physical conditioning should be composed mainly of games and exercises with a ball. The number of training sessions from the beginning of the season should be increased gradually.
Testing your players
The most important thing that you should consider before the season begins is the physical condition of your players after the off season. Because of this, it is worth considering physical and physiological tests at the start of your pre-season schedule to see how the players are doing and to evaluate their preparation plans. These tests give information on the properties of endurance, speed, muscular endurance, strength, coordination, technical, and tactical elements during the preparation period.
Observations highlight the value of exercising with the ball where possible, notably using activity drills in small groups. Small-sided games have particular advantages for young players, both in providing a physiological training stimulus and a suitable medium for skills work. While complementary training may be necessary in specific cases, integrating fitness training into a holistic process is generally advisable.
This table is useful for coaches to assist them in planning pre-season, depending on how many opportunities each week you have as a coach to work with the players and the duration of your sessions, using this table gives you an outline of what you should prioritise in training and how to go about planning your pre-season.
For example, the highest priority in the first two weeks of pre-season should go to aerobic training to build a good base and core stability to assist in preventing injury throughout the season.
Why are we prioritising aerobic work early on in the pre-season? Because aerobic training is less match specific. Nearer to the end of pre-season we want to be sharp and ready for matches so at the end of pre-season speed becomes the highest priority. Anaerobic training is the highest priority in the middle part of pre-season.
So, first we want to build a base, then we want to be able to work on sustaining our work rate and finally we want to go into the season sharp.
Prioritising Fitness Elements in a Soccer Training Program
(based on 6 week pre-season programme)
Fitness component Early pre-season
(first two weeks) Mid pre-season
(second two weeks) Late pre-season
(last two weeks)
Aerobic training high moderate low
Interval training low high moderate
Core stability high moderate moderate
Anaerobic training low high moderate
Speed training low moderate high
So, your weekly planner would look something like this based on two nights per week training as well as players doing some individual work.
Pre season Soccer Training Program
Weeks 1 and 2
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
rest aerobic work
core work rest aerobic work rest match recovery run flexibility work