Last week we started our series on soccer season planning with the general preparatory phase. Today we continue with part II of season preparation, the specific preparation phase.
- Eliminating technical skill deficits for each player as much as possible, based on the assessment of previous phase.
- Developing the main game philosophy, system of play, and training all tactical elements to execute the philosophy
- Training players to execute their positions in the system
- Developing alternative formation options to respond to game situations
- Developing endurance
The specific deliverables at the end of the general preparatory segment are:
- Competent in executing system of play appropriate for the team
- Depth chart for each position in each system (who starts, who is first alternative, etc.)
- Endurance developed to play 90 minutes at 100% effort
- Players have bought in to their role on the team
- Game schedule reviewed and practice plans and game strategies developed for first two games
- Any injured players entered into rehabilitation program
Communication remains critical. I suggest to have a team meeting before any practice and a quick recap before departing, regardless of how long the practices are.
For the four pillars I suggest practices and drills to focus on specific skills that need improvement, players can be grouped according to their skill level. So a group could be working on receiving/passing, another on shooting, etc. Tactical elements must be trained according to the overarching game philosophy with the anticipated players in their future position. Emphasize accuracy over execution speed. Step up speed when players master execution accuracy and timing. Fitness training is focused on endurance. If you have lots of time then runs are ok, but never sacrifice working with the ball for jogging. The players need to be managed to be emotionally ready to take on roles they perhaps weren’t expecting, such as different position, not starting, etc. Play as many small sided games in practice as possible but start adding full team against full team games. With a large enough roster that is easy, with kids teams you may have to recruit parents and siblings to fill the second team.
Practice volume remains high and intensity steps up to medium. For example one or two daily practices with higher aerobic requirements in the drills and a medium 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 one week. For competitive teams this phase could be two to four 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.