Thursday, September 16, 2010


‘If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail’

Your season may have just finished but have you considered planning for the ‘new’ season!? A good pre-season training base can often provide the foundation for future success both for your team and individuals’ fitness. Generally, pre-season duration should be 6-8 weeks. It is vitally important for a number of reasons:
• Fitness and conditioning leading to match fitness
• Setting team and individual goals
• Discipline, boundaries and expectations
• Establishing a ‘work ethic’ and standards
• Group cohesion and team-building
• Developing team plays, tactics and strategies
• Code of conduct for the players’/staff
• Creating positive attitudes and ‘open’ environment

Pre-season is also a good time to encourage the players’ to develop strong learning habits of mind by getting them to understand the importance of resilience and resourcefulness. Their attitude, desire and dedication for self-improvement will be important along with a subjective mental assessment by the coach i.e. ‘do they really want to put in the required work’?

Many players’ have negative images of preseason training E.g. long, tedious aerobic runs with little football specific training. I and many others’ probably experienced this as a player and viewed it as a chore, but do endurance runs have a link to what actually happens in a game of football? Quite clearly, the answer is no and direction should be aimed toward interval work incorporating the complex movements within football.

Hopefully, the ‘modern’ coach has realised this and I aim to provide some possible ideas that you can implement this summer. A well planned programme should accommodate individual needs and provide variety and challenge to intrinsically motivate the players’. Rampini et al. (2007) reported that coach encouragement is a dominant variable on playing intensity. Therefore, coaches should aim to maximise motivational techniques when high training intensities are required during pre-season.
The focus needs to be on encouragement, positive reinforcement, using a competition structure and providing feedback to the players about levels of intensity.

Most activity in football lasts approximately 5-6 seconds and for about 25 yards in distance. Invasion games involve a startstop process, which utilises fast-twitch muscle fibres and has a focus towards the anaerobic system (energy system that does not use oxygen). In today’s game, elite players’ are trained ‘athletes’ and should demonstrate prowess in the key principles of fitness- speed, power, stamina, strength and flexibility. Most clubs and academies now employ fitness and conditioning coaches’ who deliver fitness specific and rehabilitation work.

Pre-season conditioning work should develop both energy systems (anaerobic and aerobic) incorporating an element of football in most activity. Through match analysis techniques researchers have studied the work-rate and activity profiles of footballers, the demands imposed on footballers during a game include:
- Runs between 6 and 10 miles
- Activity at a pace representing 70-80 % of their endurance capacity
- Walks, sprints, jogs, cruises, stretches, jumps, passes, heads, tackles and shoots
- On average an individual player has contact with the ball for 2-3minutes
- Turns approximately 400-450 times through 90> degrees during a game

The aim of establishing optimal player fitness is to reduce the risk of injury and improve a player’s overall game performance. Consider the following indicators when pre-planning your programme:

• Developing a players’ recovery capacity E.g. Recovering quickly after a period of high intensity work, enabling the player to be ready for the next ‘bout’ of activity.

• Developing the body’s capacity to manage lactic acid (a waste product of intensive work causing muscle fatigue and often a feeling of nausea).

• Variation- players’ are looking forward to what the next session might be and are challenged through diverse activity, individual goal-setting and tailored programmes to meet their needs.

• Testing- this provides an information base and facilitates assessment for learning by engaging the player on the benefits of testing and its use as an evaluative tool. This can potentially, improve individual weaknesses’ through specific one-one work. Tests can also be used as a tool to motivate players.

• Training both energy systems (aerobic and anaerobic) with specific focus on strengthening the fast-twitch fibres needed for explosion E.g. checking, turning, accelerating, jumping and side-stepping.

• Position specific work- Players in specific positions require tailored fitness work to suit the demands of where they play E.g. A central defender will differ to a striker. Relying on standard training methods for all players’ neglects to consider the specific conditioning required for individual players.

Training plan for a Centre midfield player:
- High endurance capacity (VO2 max) required. Endurance training an important focus.
- Balance: focus on balance and flexibility work
- Strength: Abrasive to frequent contact situations and physical strength important
- Agility: checking, turning and explosive work needed
- Anaerobic capacity: intermittent, high intensity activity with varying work-rest intervals
- Power: dynamic strength exercises

• Monitoring and evaluation of progress is a vital component of any training programme, and from the results specific work can be tailored to suit the needs of your squad and individuals.

Example Fintess Test
-Run from 18 yard box to 18 yard box in 10-14 seconds (target), recovery- jog the width of the penalty box in 20-25 seconds, and then repeat the 18 yard box run in target time.
-Perform 6-8, 18 yard box runs. Rest for 120 seconds and repeat x4.
-The aim of this field test is to work the players’ heart-rate at 85% of their maximum HR.

Utilising football drills for conditioning has its benefits when compared with generic physical training. Players’ will be more motivated, greater physical output is generated in many cases and better transfer of match-specific fitness. The challenges for the coach is creating optimal work intensities and constructing sessions that meet fitness targets. Many coaches’ can find it challenging to plan a fitness-based football session. There are many variables to consider E.g. number of players, equipment, facilities, pitch size and rule modifications. However, if you are prepared to overcome these difficulties you will observe improvements in team motivation/morale and performance at training.

As conditioning improves, a player’s resting heart-rate should be gradually lowered.
Depending on an individual’s fitness level it is recommended that you train between 65% and 80% of your predicted heart rate reserve.

Speed, agility and quickness can often make the difference between winning and losing E.g. a player exploding through a defensive gap, checking, turning and sidestepping to outwit defenders. Intermittent, high intensity activity with varying work-rest intervals focusing on specific elements of the SAQ continuum can better prepare players for the demands of the game.

With on-going SAQ training, the neuromuscular system is gradually re-programmed and restrictive mental blocks and thresholds are removed. Consequently, messages from the brain have a clearer path to the muscles and the result will be an instinctively quicker player.

The SAQ continuum is used to ‘kinaesthetically programme’ the performance of a specific physical activity with improved quality and control. SAQ continuum is the name of a progressive sequence of training ‘phases’ which collectively improve performance. Over a period of time you will observe improvements in explosive multi-directional speed, agility and quickness, acceleration/deceleration, quality and speed of response control. SAQ is a vital part of my training plans and below are 2 examples which can be carried out with and without a football.

Final thoughts
Football is now a ‘scientific art’ with numerous factors combining to create peak performance. Pre-season training and fitness, have become a vital cog to facilitate potential success. I will close with the following quote as you consider a new season: ‘If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail’.


“Matches are the best indicators of a successful system”

“Ante Miše was born June 14th 1967 and started his football career at the youth academy of FC Borovo, Croatia. He made his debut in the first team at the age of fifteen and played seven games for the Croatian national. He transferred to HNK Hajduk Split when he was seventeen and wore the Hajduk jersey 339 times, scoring 40 goals. In 1994 he moved to Holland, where he played for Vitesse for three seasons. He ended his football career at FC Mura in Slovenia in 2005.
For the next two years he coached Croatian teams in the second and third division and moved on to the Croation Premier League in 2008, when he took charge of FC Hajduk, Split, and with success. Miše guided to team to a Croatian Cup victory and a second place in the Croatian championship. Ante Miše is considered one of the most up-and -coming young coaches in Croatia.”
Miše talked to Dušan Petrović about his coaching philosophy, systems of play and gives us an inside look at how to prepare a team for an important match.

“Even as a player, I enjoyed playing offensive football. I inherited this from all the coaches who taught me to play this way, in ex Yu and then in Croatia. However, the years I spent in the Netherlands really formed my coaching philosophy and made my vision more determinate and complete. Playing and training under Leo Beenhakker, but also watching other Dutch coaches and analyzing their matches, have played a big part in forming my coaching philosophy. The teams that I have coaches play what I call 'creative offensive football'.
I want discipline in all lines, but when the defensive line is forced to play with discipline and structure, I always allow a dose of creativity and imagination to the midfield and offensive lines.”

System of a play
“My favorite system of the play is the 1-4-2-3-1, which was a great match for the Hajduk Split selection I worked with and their tactical and technical characteristics and speed. Basic characteristics of the system is that it consists of 4 lines: a defensive line of 4 players who play in the zone, a midfield, to create balance, with two defensive players in the second line, a third line with a central midfielder and 2 wingers and the last line with a sole striker. The pros of this system consists of offensive power with the fourth and fifth lines (great number of players), great variety and combinations within the system, the forming of triangles across all the lines and having a great number of players in the middle of the field. Matches are the best indicators of a successful system. Yet you can never be satisfied until you have created automation in the movements and fulfillment of players’ tasks across all the lines of the team.”

“Special attention is paid to the players and their motivation in training. One of the most important things that lead to a good relationship and a good understanding between a coach and the players is the players’ discipline. To make this happen it is good to have qualitative insight in each player’s abilities, his qualities, his potential and his character (mentality). A coach must affect the team and its behavior in an conscious and controlled manner and provide all the players with the conditions to excel. Giving a player the feeling that he is worth the attention will make player more self assured and stronger and in turn he will be more motivated to accept the coach’s demands. The most important aspects in teamwork are making the individual qualities work for the team. Furthermore, there must be motivation, a good atmosphere within the team and maximum performance during the training. If we manage to ensure all of these aspects, the payoff will be reflected in the results.”

Preparations for the next game (7 day cycle)
Day off

On Monday I divide the team into 2 groups. The group who played during the previous match and the substitutes. The players who played will have a regeneration training consisting of some relaxed running (2x12 min), Stretching (10- 12min) and a massage.
Training for the players that did not play the match:
• 10 min stability practice (pair work)
• 10 min strength practice (repetitive training) 2 series x 20 sec.
• 6 min stretching
• A game of 6v6 with 2 neutrals
o Field size: 40x30m
o Duration: 2x6min
o No goalkeeper
o 2 touches
o Play on possession, neutrals play with team in possession
o Game setup, like a corridor (neutrals are in the middle) with 3 players of each time on each side of them. Players must stay on their own side
• A game of 7v7 with goalkeepers on a short, wide field. 2x12 min, free play
• Total training duration: 75-90 min
• Training intensity: Maximum

Tuesday, 9.00-10.00 a.m.
• 6 min easy running
• 6 min stretching
• 12 min heading game with guards on the goal (the ball is passed by hand, only score by means of a header. Field 30x20m, all players)
• 12 min interval running
• 6 min stretching
• 12 min interval running
• 6 min stretching
• High intensity, aerobic-anaerobic component
Tuesday, 4.00-5.30 p.m.
• 12 min stability practice
• 12 min round pass
• 2x20 sec strength practice
• Attacking exercise on both halves
o 2 groups each on one half
o With goalkeepers
o System of play like in a match
o Attacking play with the system
• A game of 11v11 on 3 goals
o 15 min
o Formation 1-4-2-3-1 against 1-4-4-2
• 6 min regenerating running
• High intensity training session

Wednesday, 4.00-5.30 pm
• Warming up training (Middle intensity)
•10-15 min skips coordination (high intensity)
• Possession game in 2 groups. 2x6 min (rotate groups)
- Group 1:
• Field 20x30m
• 5v5 with 2 neutrals
- Group 2:
• Field 20x30m
• 4v4 with 4 neutrals
• Game of 10v10 on a shortened field (70m)
o Free play
o 1-4-2-3-1 vs 1-4-4-2
o 12 min

Thursday, 4.00-5.30 pm
• Tactical session (opponent possession and counter attacks) 30 min
• 11v11 on 2 goals 2x12min
• 12 min stretching
• Medium intensity training

Friday, 4.00-5.00 pm
• Tactical session
• 12 min passing
• 20min shooting ball on the goal
• Counter attacks
• Acceleration training in pairs 8x10m
• Stretching 10-12min
• Medium intensity training

Saturday, 4.00 pm

Choosing a system
“In the previous section I outlined the microcycles of the 7 day preparation phase for the week prior to the qualification match for Europa League. The match was played after the first primary round, which meant our season had not started and that the players hadn’t reached their top competitive form yet. In deciding on what system to play I also took the opponent’s qualities into account. They play in a 1-4-3-3 system and I decided to counter that with a 1-4-2-3-1 formation. From scouting the opponent, Zilina (Slovakia), we gathered they were an experienced team with an average age of 27 and had some tall players, they are strong in combination plays and counter attacks. The main goal of our formation was to create an outnumbering situation on midfield, so we could control and dominate play there.”
“There are a few reasons why I choose that system. One of the main reasons is that we had experience with the system and it is a great match with the qualities my players have (speed, combination play, counter attacks down the flanks and offensive power and numbers). One of the main reasons was also because we were playing this first match on their turf, so we needed to play offensive and score, so we would have an extra advantage in the second match at home. Playing the system I’ve chosen for that game, we could prevent the opponent’s counters down the flanks and create problems for them to combine in the middle.”

Player tasks
“Each match is different and so the tasks of the players differ too. We played with a micro defense and 2 stoppers who had the special tasks to push the back line as far from our goal as they could (40m from the goal), taking away the threat of their tall forwards. The two defensive midfielders were given the task to play close to our back line and take control of those so called 'nobody’s balls'. In opponent possession the half wingers had to provide support in the center, covering the two 2 defensive midfielders. In possession these half wingers had a task to make diagonal runs off the ball, to create space for our wingbacks, who both have great offensive
strength. Our striker had the special task to be in constant contact with the opponents left stopper, so he could create space for our offensive midfielder to enter the opponents box.”

“The reason I give special tasks to certain players is because they have certain qualities that can make a difference. The players who are assigned special tasks are the players with a certain character and the ones I know are able to deal with the pressure of the game. This doesn't mean the other players do not have special qualities. It takes an entire team, with quality players to pull this off. Without the help and functioning of the entire team the players with the special tasks could not accomplish them. It takes an entire team to reach your goals.”

Staff members and their tasks during the preparations
“Besides the players, each member of the staff also has a tasks during this preparation phase. Every members has been delegated a task to analyze certain parts of the opponents’ game:
• The goalkeeper coach: goalkeeper‘s qualities (running out, footwork, 1v1, penalty strategy)
• Defense coach: do they play zone defense or man to man, what are their flaws down the flanks or through the middle
• Midfield and offense coach: analyze each midfielder and forward and their qualities

Psychological aspect of preparation
“One of the most important elements during preparation is psychological preparation of the players. My task as a coach is to decrease the psychological pressure as much as possible. This is why the players are sometimes put in quarantine before an important match. I often use quarantine as an aspect of individual concentration, to prepare the players for the expected task (confidence, stability, balance). Media are always in quest for information, sensations and in that way they influence the psyche of a player. When the players know everything about the upcoming opponent and what they can expect, they are more relaxed. Stability of a team is very important, and it can lead to good results. The results are those that keep peace and good atmosphere in the locker-room. The coach, consciously and controllably can and must keep the team stability even if the results are not satisfactory. I consider this the most important quality of a coach.”