Steven Poacher

Steven Poacher: The four phases of your season

IN NORMAL circumstances this time of year would see clubs around the country considering the incoming 2021 season. In particular, coaches and managers would usually be sketching some plans on paper, but what has been normal at all recently?

In teaching nowadays your life revolves around planning and preparation, standing in front of a class without having planned your lesson is an accident waiting to happen. Planning a lesson though is just the short-term measure: planning a block of lessons is known as a ‘scheme of work’, which is designed to help carry you through the term or section of the course or subject you’re delivering.

Now it has become even more complicated with the news that online learning and remote learning is to take place right up to midterm in February.

Teachers are frantically scrambling together resources over the last few days not knowing what was happening, but a key attribute of any good teacher is effective planning and organisation.

The same key principles apply to coaching; you must plan long-term for the season. Obviously that is very difficult right now, but you can have an overall template or vision of the shape you want the year to take, then monthly/weekly, then individual sessions.

Without a plan you cannot map out where you are going and you and your team could end up heading in a direction you don’t want to go.

In club football traditionally, I like to map my season out into four different phases of the year. Phase one will be pre-season, phase two will be early season, phase three will be mid-season and phase four will be peak season.

Depending obviously on whereabouts your championship falls, the peak season may arrive earlier in the year which can be difficult to manage but fortunately in Down, championship and play-offs tend to happen towards the end of the year which leaves it easier to manage.
Each of the four phases will carry a different training element as listed below:

Pre-season: This is where your stamina and speed endurance base are entrenched. This phase is also an opportunity to work on injury prevention methods through core strength and resistance training. Sessions will generally last 70-plus minutes and don’t forget to include plenty of ball work and introduce patterns of play.

I always try to encourage players to strive to arrive at pre-season training fit to play football rather than arrive at training to get fit.
Early season: League games should have begun and all players are still trying to establish match fitness. It is important to maintain the speed endurance element once a week, particularly if you have a large panel for those players not getting regular football early in the year.

Also include some multi-directional agility work and also begin to establish a solid game-plan and patterns of play.
Mid-season: Focus on reinforcing your patterns of play at training while also maintaining speed, multi-directional running and quickness.

Start to introduce some on-field power work in preparation for the peak season. League matches at both senior and reserve level should keep players match fit.

Peak-season: This is where the quantity of training will decrease slightly but the quality and intensity will rise.

There will be a huge emphasis on gameplay at pace and also an emphasis on conditioning through power, speed and multi-directional agility exercises. Sessions should generally last approximately 50 minutes in this phase.

That is a general overview of the year in phases, but each of those phases must be broken down into months, weeks and individual sessions which take an enormous amount of time and effort.

The days of just showing up and taking a team are long gone; teams expect and want the best and to be the best you have to follow the 3 Ps – plan, prepare and perform.

Good luck to all the coaches embarking on new challenges in 2021 and hopefully we will start to see some light at the end of this Covid tunnel.

On Monday at 8pm, I am presenting a webinar in conjunction with Deely Sports Science titled ‘Planning a Better Session.’ It’s a very informative Powerpoint presentation with plenty of ideas to consider when planning your sessions for the forthcoming year. More details on twitter -@stevie_poacher.

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