Following the preparatory phase is the competitive phase, the heart of the season. It is divided into pre-competitive and main competitive components.
The main objectives of the pre-competitive phase are:
- Getting ready to play the first competitive game
- Fine-tuning the system of play with all players knowing their positions, as well as their own and their team mates movements with and without the ball
- Being ready to switch to alternate formations during a game or for the next game
- Having each player and the team mentally ready to compete at top intensity
- Developing speed
The specific deliverables at the end of the general preparatory segment are:
- Starting line up and substitutes defined
- Game plans developed for the first 20% of the season
- Practice and training plans developed for the first 20% of the season, for team and for individuals (starters, subs, non-roster players)
- Injury rehabilitation being executed with specific return to action dates
- Opposition scouted and strengths/weaknesses identified
- Final schedules communicated
For the four pillars I suggest one main theme: EXECUTION SPEED.
Practices and drills focus on key specific skills required to execute the game philosophy and system of play. If possession soccer is it, then accurate passes at high pace to target players and into space are called for. Likewise ball receiving and control. If a fast break style is the philosophy, then longer passes, switching side of attack, accurate crosses might be the focus. Tactically repetition at high speed is called for. Use small grids for possession and larger grids for a counterattacking system. Find a way to incorporate full game scrimmages or more exhibition games. Fitness training is focused on speed. A good mental training strategy is to introduce players to visualization, discover their ideal performance state (IPS), and to develop pre-game routines for players to achieve their IPS at game time.
The players need need lots of 1on1 discussions with the coach to make sure they buy into their roles.
Practice volume drops to medium and intensity steps up to high. Reduce practice frequency and aim for a high work/rest time ratio.
Continue to play exhibition games and keep scouting the opposition as permitted.
The length of this phase depends on the circumstance of the team. For university/college teams that only get together two to three weeks before the first competition this phase should be three days to one week. For competitive teams this phase could be two weeks. For recreational teams that get together a week before the first game this might have to be built into the pre-game warm-ups. Be flexible.