The off season of soccer is an opportunity for all players to recoup, revitalise and recover from the previous gruelling and mentally challenging season. The purpose of the preseason is to ease players back into the season. The preseason is the foundation of the soccer season, and is therefore important in setting your players up for success. Typical planning for a preseason involves the old routines but by utilising the following elements below, you can assure your team will be mentally and physically prepared for their upcoming games.
A player’s performance has four main components including physical, technical, tactical and psychological. It is important to look after your body but your mind is something that is often foregone in preparing for a season. And yet, it is generally the reason for getting distracted, not performing to standard or quitting. Ways to mentally prepare include setting personal goals, reflecting on past seasons, knowing who your competitors are, scheduling your games and training sessions in a calendar and checking in with your teammates and coach.
This accumulates to reduce psychological distress, anxiety and not overwhelm you. It builds self-confidence, resilience, focus, dedication and motivation. Writing down your goals, self-reflection and ways to improve will also hold you accountable for your commitment and goals. It is important that if you do happen to fail, to focus on the future and how to improve and not dwell on the past and always reach out to peers or the coach or counsellor.
Once you are mentally checked in, it is time to check in physically. The current fitness level will have changed significantly since last season due to off-season indulgence and will also vary from player to player. In particular to soccer, tests include:
- Body weight using a calibrated scale
- Body fat using the three-site skin fold test
- Change of direction by the 5-10-5 pro agility method
- Acceleration with a 10 yard sprint
- Explosiveness with a vertical challenger jump test
- Top speed tested by 10 to 20 yard split
- And numerous tests measuring stamina, power and strength
The results can indicate a player’s strengths and weaknesses, therefore showing what needs improvement and maintenance. Testing should occur regularly to track improvements and to see if something is not working.
Strength Training and HIIT
Now the results are in, a training program can be formulated. Strength and high intensity interval training (HIIT) are effective due to the nature of a soccer game. The strength training for soccer requires the whole body and players should focus on movements that translate to the pitch. Soccer involves powerful explosive movements such as jumping, kicking, sprinting and turn tackling. As both feet never leave the ground during game play, single leg lateral exercises are most effective, exercises should include single leg squats, single leg deadlifts, hamstring curls and leg presses. Start with exercising both legs and ease into working out individual legs. For the upper body pressing movements such as bench press, cable rotational chops, single arms dumbbell snatch and dumbbell arms swings are most effective.
When strength training, tabata training is a popular form of HIIT that incorporates strength and endurance. Choose an exercise with maximum intensity for 20 seconds and 10 seconds rest. Additionally, HIIT works best for soccer as there is a lot of intense sprinting and decelerating in a game. HIIT works as an aerobic capacity exercise, with the principle to perform a cardio based exercise intensely for 30-50 seconds, then with a 30-10 second rest respectively. HIIT can produce the same results of a continued cardio exercise within half the amount of time. It is best for burning calories, increasing metabolic rate, losing fat and gaining muscle and increasing oxygen consumption. The combination of strength tabata training and HIIT simultaneously is most efficient for a soccer player.
Vital skills for a soccer player is ball control and it is always best to take it back and do basic drills that work on your balance, coordination, concentration and conditioning with a soccer ball.
- Juggling: Keeping the ball in the air with your feet, chest or head in a rhythm
- Heading: Hitting a ball with your head and practice running and jumping before you hit it or hitting the ball with direction or varying power levels
- Target practice: Use a wall and mark an X and trying hitting that point from varying angles and distances
- Dribbling: Set up a line of cones and move the ball between them with small taps
- Inside out: Starting with ball in between your feet, kick and aim to brush the outside of the other foot, with that foot kick the ball so it moves to brush the outside of the other ball, keep this pattern in a fast and fluid motion
Reassessing the main components of performance, all bases are covered from psychological to physical, tactical and technical. A missing component that has nothing to do with soccer is the bond and connection between your team as a whole. Having your team friendly and on first-name basis is okay but if you send your team on a Team Trips they will come back as a stronger group of people with trust in each other, emotional support, lasting memories, better communication that no amount of training and team dinners will surpass in the outcome.
Team Trips offer great package deals around Australia and New Zealand. Destinations include Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast, Airlie Beach, Byron Bay, Brisbane, Perth, Hobart, Adelaide, Cairns and Darwin in Australia and Queenstown, Wellington, Auckland and Taupo for New Zealand. Choose a desired location, select your ideal package or create your own package and Team Trips will do the rest.
The soccer preseason serves as a way to gradually ease players from their off-season back into gameplay. By using the key elements of mentally preparing, physical testing, strength training and HIIT, specific skill drills and Team Trips and incorporating them into the preseason will ensure your team is ready for a great season.