Steven Poacher

STEVEN POACHER: Plan, prepare, perform

As we enter 2024, most coaches involved in teams will be beginning to prepare and plan for the new season with their respective teams. As the great Roy Keane said once in Saipan all those years ago, fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Entering a season or a session without having a plan of some capacity is foolish.

As a teacher 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.

The same principles should apply to coaching; you must plan long term for the season, then monthly/weekly, then individual sessions.

Speaking as a senior club manager for the last eleven seasons, without a plan we couldn’t map out where we are going and as a squad could end up heading in a direction you don’t want to go. Therefore it’s vitally important that you and your management team make the plans known and transparent to the squad – transparency really is crucial when involved in management.

In club football I like to map my year out into five different phases: phase one will be pre-hab, phase two will be the pre-season, phase three will be early season, phase four will be mid-season and phase five will be peak season. Depending obviously on whereabouts your championship falls the peak season may arrive earlier in the year but in most counties, the championship and playoffs tend to happen towards the end of the year.

Sometimes we make the mistake when we start back up again that we have to train super hard, really early in the year, it couldn’t be further from the truth. It should be a gradual return to training, with forward planning and periodisation of how you see the year carefully penned out. Here are four phases that may help you.

Each of the four phases will carry a different training element as listed below;

1.Pre-hab – This is a critical phase for working on injury prevention methods through Pilates, one on one physio corrective work, screening players, working on flexibility, core strength and resistance training.

2.Pre-Season – This is where your stamina and speed endurance base are entrenched. This phase is also an opportunity to build on the work done in Pre Hab phase. Sessions will generally last 70minutes plus, don’t forget to include plenty of the ball.

3.Early Season – League games commence and all players are still trying to establish “match fitness” important to maintain the speed endurance element once a week along with some multi directional agility work and also begin to establish a game plan and a pattern of play.

4.Mid Season – Focus on reinforcing your pattern 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.

5.Peak Season – Where the quantity of training will decrease slightly but the quality and intensity rises. There will be a huge emphasis on game play at pace and also an emphasis on conditioning through power, speed and multi directional agility exercises. Sessions will generally last approx 50mins in this phase.

That is a general overview of a normal year into phases, but each of those phases must be broken down into months, weeks and individual sessions which takes 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 P’s; Plan, Prepare and Perform so you can be ready for all the madness to begin again in the coming weeks! Happy New Year to everyone and good luck for the 2024 season.

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