Planning a soccer season is a very important aspect of coaching soccer. I define a soccer season as an entire year, from the beginning of one season to the beginning of the next season. Within this annual cycle are the following phases:
- Preparatory (Pre-Season) Phase
- General Preparatory
- Specific Preparatory
- Competitive Phase
- Main Competitive (actual game playing)
- Tapering Phase (immediately after competition is over)
- Transition (from end of tapering to next preparatory)
One might argue that this applies to competitive or professional soccer and is not relevant for recreational soccer or very young kids. I would say that regardless of the team situation, all phases apply. What differs between levels of competition, type of league, age of players, etc. is the amount of time and energy expended in the planning and execution of these phases. Before I elaborate, let’s remember the four pillars of soccer:
- Technical skills
- Tactical understanding
- Physical fitness
- Mental/Emotional fitness
When you plan your season you need to develop all four pillars. Depending on the phase of the season the emphasis, intensity, and frequency of each of the pillars varies.
So we have a three dimensional issue to deal with:
- Competitive Environment of the team
- Phase of season
- Pillar of soccer
Let’s look at one example, a University soccer team in Canada. There is an outdoor competition from September to November and an indoor competition in March.
With students arriving on campus around labor day weekend there is a very short preparatory phase (two weeks), a very short yet intense competitive phase (eight weeks maximum), a short tapering and a short transition to the outdoor off-season (December). Then starts a longer preparatory phase for the indoor season (January-February), followed by a very short tournament style competitive phase (three weeks). From April to September are the tapering and transitioning phases for the next outdoor season.
Over the next few weeks I will discuss application of season planning (periodization) in various situations with specific examples of how to structure soccer practices and games in the context of the four pillars. Stay tuned.