JOHN MCMAHON: What is tactical periodisation?

A brief introduction……

Let’s think back to our younger days playing Gaelic games. I often recall having a warmup to start the session (which usually consisted of a couple of laps around the pitch) followed by stretches. We would then perform a few drills for the main body of the session, with a match at the end to ‘put into practice what we had learned’.

I think many of us who have either played or coached the game would agree that this protocol is the traditional approach to coaching.


In my experience as a player, the main body of the session would normally focus on either physical fitness, technical skills, or tactics.

As a coach my early playing experiences formed a lot of my early coaching. So, in the beginning I used the traditional approach in my coaching practice, my sessions would usually focus on one or two of the key coaching elements. In pre-season, the main body of my sessions would usually comprise of physical drills, and then revert to either technical or tactical based drills during the main part of the season.

(**Key Coaching Elements in Gaelic Games– Physical, Technical, Tactical, Psychological & Social)

So why am I discussing this?

The traditional approach when I was coaching only afforded me enough time to work on two or three of the key elements within the same session (for example, drill one is physical based, drill two is technical based), In my early coaching years it was very rare that I coached all elements within the same session. Was I being efficient amd effective with my coaching time available? I always felt that I didn’t have enough contact time with my players to coach all elements thoroughly. So I choose the elements that I felt would reap greater reward.

It’s an interesting topic for discussion as coaches, I feel.

Do you have enough contact time during your training week to divide all the elements of the game across the week? Or would it be more effective to train all elements all the time in all sessions? I present to you Tactical Periodisation.

So, what is tactical periodization?

Firstly, the tactical periodisation approach was developed in the 1990s by Vitor Frade, a lecturer at the Sports University of Porto in Portugal. His philosophy simply put, training should never separate the physical, tactical, technical, and psychological elements of the game.

So, what are the benefits of tactical periodisation coaching approach?



Players work on all elements of the game more regularly. We are not wasting valuable training time working on separate elements (tactical, technical, physical, psychological, social).



Players are learning how to combine all elements simultaneously; As they would in a game. Therefore, we are creating a more realistic training environment and as an outcome better performers.



We are training players in our sessions to adapt to chaotic training scenarios. We are creating better decision makers as a result; this will lead to more successful and effective performance in the game.

As always, I hope this article creates some discussion and is thought provoking.

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