Combining Preseason With Ball Conditioning

By Paul Driesen  (reprinted from Performance Conditioning Soccer)

This article is one of 10 articles part of the On-field Ball Skills Endurance Insta-Kit.

The foundation of a soccer season is built in the preseason, a period which ideally should last approximately six weeks, but that in general doesn't last longer than four to five weeks.

It is not easy to plan for a whole team in youth or high school soccer because not each player will attend a total preseason. As a coach it's almost impossible to have each player there at each practice because of vacations, summer jobs, other sports, etc. Weather is another factor. Extremes in heat, cold and other conditions also create problems. Because of these limitations the preseason conditioning should extend into the regular season.

To be prepared for the preseason, players must work on their own to compensate for missed sessions. It is good to give the players "homework" which focuses mainly on endurance activity.

Practice Planning

Assuming a preseason of five weeks with three practices per week we have 15 sessions. There will also be the preseason friendly games and/or tournaments.

It is important to know what the objectives of the preseason are and what the emphasis will be during the practice sessions in the first five weeks. All of our exercises are soccer related and include some aspect of the ball. Here are the areas we focus on during the training week.

                    Conditioning emphasis         Technical/tactical objectives
Week 1       75%                                           25%
Week 2      70%                                           30%
Week 3      60%                                           40%
Week 4      50%                                           50%
Week 5      40%                                           60%

Preseason objectives

Shaping your Conditioning Program

Much attention must be spent on the conditioning aspect during the preseason. We all know that soccer players dislike running laps and doing unmotivated sprint runs. As a coach, you must realize that vomiting during or severe muscle pain the day after practice are not true indicators that you are getting the conditioning the players need.

It's important that the players reach their own "conditioning ceiling" through gradual preparation. If the preseason preparation is done gradually the player will have a broader foundation and a better knowledge of the game. When the preparation is done at a fast pace and in a very short period of time it becomes counterproductive, because quick gains mean quick losses.

All of this can be accomplished through many running and conditioning exercises. It's not all wrong but within the framework of soccer practice it's not logical to practice without a soccer ball. Even the conditioning aspects of soccer can be practiced in soccer related exercises.

Why should we create players who are very fit but cannot transform this fitness to receiving passes, shooting, etc? My idea of the preseason is very simple. Translate into soccer the conditioning responses to endurance capacity, base interval/specific interval, speed and speed endurance capacity training.

Soccer Conditioning + Soccer Techniques/Tactics = Better Soccer Play

Motivating with the Ball

Don't forget that we're teaching soccer to soccer players. The enjoyment increases for the players because they are playing soccer. Because of this joy in playing, gradually the intensity and willpower will increase.

The development of the conditioning aspect through playing soccer is important. Therefore, from the first session, attention must be placed on the game of soccer while gradually increasing the conditioning demands.

This all means that conditioning doesn't start by itself but is integrated into the total soccer picture. The conditioning aspects shouldn't be isolated where the ball, rules of the game, opponents and teammates are left out.

Benefits of Soccer Ball Specific Conditioning

Soccer conditioning is soccer training in which better conditioning eventually enables the player to realize more soccer ability because s/he has more soccer work capacity to train harder and recover faster.

Here is what you can now expect to teach the players with soccer specific conditioning training:

  • to be at the ball sooner
  • to solve problems quickly
  • to be able to keep up longer
  • to be able to concentrate longer
  • to be able to play under greater pressure/resistance
  • to anticipate better

It's important for us to work all of this into a good useful and soccer realistic preseason practice. As the coach we must keep a balance between the work rate and the work limit. We must be sure that the players aren't over trained. Don't underestimate the importance of rest periods.

The gradual buildup of training cycle can be seen in Figure 1. This shows the relationship to training duration and training intensity.

There are many recovery exercises done with the ball that can act as an active rest period. Exercises such as positional games and tag games work.

I've given you the foundation of the preseason taking into account the weeks you have in which to work. Accordingly, as the preseason progresses, less time will be spent on conditioning and the attention will shift to the technical and tactical aspects.

All of these aspects will be covered in a specific week by a group of players, depending on the level of play, the team, the objective, the desire, the style of play, etc. By thinking about the starting point of all this one can develop a whole range of possible fitness exercises.

This article is one of 10 articles part of the On-field Ball Skills Endurance Insta-Kit.

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Performance Conditioning Soccer

Ken Kontor is founder and president of Performance Conditioning Inc. His company is the world’s largest single source of sports-specific conditioning information. Among the educational resources provided are Performance Conditioning Volleyball, Cycling and Soccer newsletters now in their 14th year of publishing and 15 sports-specific conditioning books and training card systems. He is a founding member of the USA Volleyball Sports Medicine and Performance Commission and was instrumental in the establishment of the Volleyball Conditioning Accreditation Program (V.C.A.P.) curriculum offered through the USA Volleyball Coaching Accreditation program. Among his contributions to this program was writing the curriculum. He has established the Off-bike Conditioning curriculum promoted by USA Cycling. In the past he has worked with USA Roller Sports and USA Triathlon producing conditioning specific newsletters. Prior to the establishment of Performance Conditioning Inc., Mr. Kontor was a founding father, executive director and publications editor of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) for 14 years an organization of over 16,000 sport conditioning professionals. He was an original member of the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist committee that established the internationally recognized C.S.C.S. credential. He has traveled extensively throughout the world including the former Soviet Union, East Germany and the Leipzig Institute of Sport, Hungary and Bulgaria with the purpose of introducing their strength and conditioning methods to the NSCA membership. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association Inc. and the National Strength and Conditioning Association of Japan. He has lectured extensively on the conditioning of athletes throughout the world.