How to use the winter break to your advantage

Coach and player during winter practice

Some can’t wait for it, because the team roster has been thinned out due to injuries or just because the last games have not been very successful. Or maybe because the players are simply exhausted due to the past months. But others would have liked to play some more games, since they were having a pretty good run lately. Either way, at some point you know the winter break is inevitable, at the latest when the pitch turns white from snow.

And this is a good thing, because a break during the season is immensely important. If you make the most out of it, it can contribute to a successful all year season in various ways. Of course there is no master plan on how to approach it perfectly. That’s because the determining factors of each team and each location are too different. Still there are some helpful tips that can be of support for everyone.

Timing is one of the most important components. Even if you would like to put your feet up and start relaxing for a bit, it is smarter, to postpone it for a couple more days.  Why? Simply, because only half of the season is over. This means there still is a second leg of the season successfully to be finished. But it can only be realized with another preparation period that gets everyone ready for the second leg. Planning this part of the season should be done as early and detailed as the preparation for the start of the season. The following phases are a suggestion on how to approach your upcoming winter break.

Phase 1: Analyze the first leg

Whether the first half of the campaign was good or not, it should be analyzed in order to support good performances and minimize bad ones. The past course of the season should therefore be examined in full detail. Roster and depth charts, tactical lineups and the level of performance of individual players, as well as the whole team – what things worked well and where is room for improvement? Naturally a coach always has to scrutinize his own work, because nobody is actually perfect. Only the coach that knows his own and his team’s strengths and weaknesses, can work on it and further improve performances.

Phase 2: Planning the winter preparation period

Once you determined the main issues, they will be the foundation of your winter preparation period planning. Compared to the first preparation period which in Europe, takes place during the warm summer months, the preparation for the second leg can involve unexpected circumstances such as snow and temperatures below freezing point. To prevent those scenarios, training schedules not only have to be expedient, challenging and motivational, but very flexible as well. It is necessary to always have a “Plan B” prepared – for any kind of situation. It will facilitate your team to train ideal and target-oriented, no matter what conditions you are facing.

"Think outside the box, so you are not limited to have training sessions on the pitch or in the sports hall"

It is self-evident, that every single training session on the pitch, as well as exhibition games, have to be prepared and scheduled with meticulous precision. Regaining physical fitness, improving on tactical mechanisms from the first part of the season, trying new tactical ideas and much more – it seems like there is a never-ending number of things you can work on. None of it should be left to chance. However you should always keep an eye on the weather conditions, which means you need some additional flexibility in your planning. How does that work?

Think outside the box so you are not limited to only train on the pitch or indoors, since those are not always available. But don’t worry – There are plenty of alternatives, especially if endurance training is your topic of choice. For instance training in a gym (Body Pump, Spinning, Dynamic Training etc.), in a swimming pool (Waterpolo, relays) or in nature (Cross Country runs). Those alternatives can be combined as well for example in form of a triathlon. Taking unknown paths and cooperating with other companies, institutions and sports can provide you and your team a lot of advantages. Despite strength, endurance, coordination and so on, there are curiosity and fun that come with those interventions. Ultimately it will improve a team’s motivation while it also broadens a coach’s expertise.

Important for alternative training methods. They should be planned way ahead of time otherwise you will have to take what is left. Equally important as timing, is the commitment to do things out of your comfort zone. Which opportunities offer your surrounding landscapes? What sports could be tried? Are there clubs available for cooperations? Do you have gyms, swimming pools or even dancing schools close by? Only the one who puts in the effort to examine available options will be able to make a virtue out of necessity.

Phase 3: Sending the preparation period plan

The preparation period plan should not be handed out to the players right after the last game of the first leg. To communicate the date of the first practice is perfectly fine. At the end, the team quite possibly needs a break and some distance first too. After a couple of days you can start sending location and time (without training content) of the respective training sessions so each player can start planning.

Phase 4: Calmness and relaxation

Once the training schedule is send out to all players, the comfortable part of the winter break starts. Zone out and relax!  Even as a dedicated coach on an amateur-level, you have been working on a high level for consecutive months. It is not only those 120 minutes of training and 90 minutes game time that you spent with soccer each week, a lot of preparation and post-processing needed to be done as well. Consequently high workloads will also come up during this winter – and it will leave its mark on each coach. This is why you should relay during the first part of the break and recharge your batteries like your players will do. Try to spend time without soccer. No phone calls, no mails, no practice and no game – soccer fasting period so to speak. Make time for yourself, exercise, read or do whatever it is that calms you down and allows you to get your mind off things. A coach runs the risk of too much stress and therefore losing all the fun if he does not sometimes take a step back. And this is by no means something desirable. Coaching should always be a job with passion and not one which causes suffering.

Phase 5: Preparation for the second leg of the season

A couple of days before the second preparation period of the season starts, the time of relaxation ultimately comes to an end. One last scrutinizing look on the planned training sessions should be taken. Is everything prepared? What will be the main focus? Which players might not be available? Etc…! Being able to answer all questions will help you having an ideal preparation for the following weeks. And this should be the goal for every success-oriented coach anyway.

To sum it all up.This could be a possible order on how to structure your winter break:

  1. Analyze the first leg
  2. Planning the winter preparation period
    1. Training sessions
      • On the putch
        • Objectives, content etc.
      • Alternatives
        • Location, objectives, content etc.
    2. Test match
  3. Sending the preparation period plan
  4. Calmness and relaxation
  5. Preparation for the second leg of the season

I hope you enjoy your winter break and start into your second leg stronger than ever before…

This article is a guest contribution from the german book author Thomas Bentler. In his new book “Wenn schon, dann richtig!: Denn Halbgas können andere machen!” (unfortunately only available in german) you can find further tips around the work of a coach on an amateur level.

Your planet.training team!

Support Team

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