Soccer Season Plan – Basics you should consider

Coach planning a sesason

With the beginning of a new season, comes a lot of planning for coaches and managers alike. The secret to a good soccer season plan is a well organized training periodization. Some advice should help you create a clear and solide structure for the upcoming season.

A training plan for the complete season?

The past season is in the history books. The deserved break with the Copa America and the EURO 2016 is coming to an end. From now on it’s back to the field to lead your team to a championship. For coaches and managers it means a lot of planning, before the first foot will touch the grass this season. But how do you plan a season properly? Some simple advice should help you to create a clear and solid structure for your upcoming soccer season plan.

The question “why do I need to plan my season in detail?” should be answered first. “Shouldn’t be the game schedule enough?” The answer is simple: If you want to accomplish great things with your team, detailed planning is the key to your success and one of your main responsibilities as a coach. A good periodization of your soccer season helps you and your team to perform at the highest level when it is really needed. You have the opportunity to include variations in your training cycle from the start, which prevents your players from plateauing and losing their motivation. At the same time, regeneration sessions should be a part of your training schedule to give your players the mental and physical rest so they stay in shape for the course of the season.

Season plan – The phases of a season in soccer

Even with the game schedule of your association, it is not enough to be ready for the season. It is just the basis of everything that follows, because all training planning has to orient themselve towards it. In most European leagues the season takes almost 10 months from the first to the last game. For each new season, the soccer season plan should start off with a four to six week preparation period. This is probably the most challenging period as it focuses on developing all the key attributes of your players. It aims to raise the sporting performance of your team to the highest level. Besides improvement of tactical abilities, a focus on development of the player’s physical condition such as endurance, strength and speed is emphasized. With that being said the preparation phase should start with high volume and low intensity training to give your players the opportunity to readjust to practice, which means the training sessions are longer than regular but not as exhausting. During the middle of the preparation period the intensity starts increasing until it reaches competition level at the end of this phase. Practices with a focus on conditioning are also very well suited to use as team building methods.

Illustration: Phases of a soccer season

Your soccer training now transitions into the competition period, which varies in length according to your schedule of the season. The intensity of your training remains at a high level while the volume of your conditioning part can decrease slightly. High workloads on game days will likely support the development and stabilization of most player’s individual peak performance. During this part of the season emphasize an improvement of individual and group tactical abilities as well as keep an eye on giving your players more and more regeneration sessions as the season progresses. This regeneration can be given in the form of an easy endurance and flexibility training. Furthermore the analysis of your previous and upcoming games, including coping with wins and losses, is an important part of your schedule.

The duration of those two main periods will vary around the globe, due to different scheduling systems. While in US High School and College Sports systems there will only be one preparation period, one competition and one post season period each year, it is different in most European Leagues. One of their most characteristic features is the “winter break” that divides the season into two parts. They require to prepare two highs in terms of peak performances in your soccer season plan. The winter break last for around two months and marks the end of the first competition period and the beginning of the transition period. The first two weeks of the transition period are all about recovery and regeneration. It is characterized through mostly non-soccer-specific and more general sports exercises. The closer you get to the start of the second competition period the current phase will be more similar to your preparation from the beginning of the season, which causes the intensity and the volume of your training to increase again. The main difference is the higher starting point of all related abilities. The cycle of preparation, competition and transition period starts all over again, which is why this special form of periodization is called a double periodization.

Preparation of soccer training

The only question that still remains is, how do I plan these periods? The most common form to structure and develop your season schedule is through determining the macro-cycle, which is defined through meso and micro cycles. That means you plan your season on three different levels.

"Your soccer training sessions are the foundation of the specific seasonal phases which define the whole yearly planning."

The most superficial and roughest level of soccer season planning is the macro cycle. This usually contains the sporting plans for several months, sometimes even years. In our case the macro cycle will contain one season. The best thing to imagine for this planning is to think of a season calendar where all game days and highlights are filled in. With this visual overview it gets easy to determine the preparation, competition and transition periods. Each of these periods presents an own meso cycle, that usually has a duration of four to twelve weeks, but it can vary according to the length of each phase. With long periods, like the first 4 month of competition period in European football leagues it makes sense to divide it in 2 or more meso cycles. Each meso cycle serves the purpose of exact control over your training objectives. While one block of this cycle might have the goal of “improving on endurance performance” another one would be targeted to “improve core strength”. The different meso cycles build the basis for the content of their respective micro cycles, the most exact level of your planning. A micro cycle consists of your daily training plans and can cover a timeframe from one day to one week. The objectives relate in most parts to those of the particular meso cycle, but possess an own short term goal setting for each practice. You can determine the daily workload much more precisely and individualize your micro cycles.

In conclusion this means, that your daily training sessions (micro cycle) form the respective season period (meso cycle). All of your season periods represent the schedule and goal setting for your season plan (macro cycle).

Now you should be aware of the basis to a structured and well planned sesason. If you want to put more content into your season plan, make sure you read our articles about Endurance, Strength, Speed and Coordination in soccer.

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Fabian Klingner

Fabian is our Sports Scientist and graduate from the German Sports University in Cologne. In our Blog he'll share his knowledge with you.

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