Training plan in football - The 3 periods of the sport season

"If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there"


This sentence, uttered in a certain animated film, has (without seeming to) a close relationship with one of the most important elements of sports training: PLANNING!

It is, effectively, before entering the woods, the best time to look at the map.

Planning is a process which analyses, defines and systematises the different operations to build and develop players and teams. It is organised according to the aims, objectives and forecasts of short, medium and long distances.

The objectives are clear: to avoid a random and not very coherent approach, anticipating scenarios and defining specific action strategies.

But the question that is often asked, not only to the coaches but also to the rest of the staff, is: WHERE DO I START?

First of all, we should clearly distinguish the 3 periods of the sportive season:

- Preparatory Period (pre-season)

- Competitive period (competition season)

- Transitory Period (inter-season phase)


The Preparatory Period, commonly known as the pre-season, aims to contribute to the acquisition of sporting form through the development of elementary factors in the physiological, tactical-technical and psychological domains.

It is perhaps the period which has undergone the most changes in recent years. Long gone are the times of a long Preparatory period, destined only to build a "physical" form, which aimed at preparing the athlete to "resist" the intensity of the competition effort, believing that this "tank filling" would serve for the whole season.

Today, the Preparatory period is more and more understood as the phase in which the team is prepared to compete.

The concept of physical form has given way to the concept of sporting form, and the player, just like the team, is evaluated in an interdisciplinary way.

Therefore, the football coach should plan this phase in order to introduce general and specific principles of the Game Model, applying training tasks that progressively generate new challenges of complexity to the players.

And why is Game Model important here?

Because there won't be time to work all aspects with the same magnitude in the usual period (6/8 weeks).

So, if I conceive a game idea which is to spend more time on defensive action, with low lines and trying to explore fast attacking actions, it will be naturally the exercises underlying these behaviours that should be more applied.

The Competitive period, on the other hand, naturally consists of the set of Mesocycles and Microcycles in which the sportive competition itself lasts.

The conceptual objective would be the stabilisation of an optimum level of performance, but due to the multiplicity of factors that determine this performance, we would say that it is a somewhat utopian concept.

The Competitive period is influenced almost decisively by the work done in the other phases, especially the preparatory phase.

To resort to a previously experienced content later on is better than having to approach it from point zero (0).

The continuous cycle of matches (which often makes training impossible), forces the match itself to be used as training and, at the same time, as an evaluation of the process.

When there is a "normal" training space, like a week between matches, for example, it is always important to privilege some relation between game phases and, of course, the strategic component to overcome the next opponent.

It's up to the coach, within the "story" he conceives for each match, to find training space for the elements he considers most important, without neglecting that each session should have methodological principles such as

- Progression (from the simplest to the most complex task)

- Propensity (number of times that the planned behaviors actually occur)

- Specificity (degree of relation between each task and the game situation that we intend to recreate).

Finally, but also with a degree of importance often overlooked, there is the Transitory period.

This is the phase between two sport seasons, and assuming the importance of having a moment of decompression immediately after the end of a season, we must be aware that returning to competition with a certain level of "form" will allow the athlete to be better prepared to integrate the Preparatory period.

There is a phrase from American sports that says: "The team is built during the season. The player is built before the season".

This period should be understood as a link between the seasons, where it will be essential (by specific planning of the staff or by his own initiative) that the athlete should respond to acquisitive stimulus but,  above all, preventive. It is in this phase that the athlete must try to recover from an eventual injury that could harm him in the beginning of the next season; to work some component of muscular strength, being common the inter-muscular imbalances and the variations of the strength levels; and, because the training is not only physical, to use also this phase to work the "psychological" component, with a clear definition of objectives of process and result that he wishes to achieve.



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