During the first week of November and the first week of June we start our Off-Season Program with our soccer players. We understand that some of them are still playing as the season tends to run year round, but this time is as good as any to set things up, build a base and refocus some of our program components. Many programs test in week 1, but with our soccer program we take a different approach…
We use the SoccerFIT Game Speed Test (run quarterly – August, November, March, May) to assess the effectiveness of our program, and specifically how the training we do impacts their performance on the field. If we look at the seasonal improvements (fall pre/post test averages) of one U15 team that we work with specifically, we can see what areas they have improved in during the season, and what areas we might want to continue to develop during the off-season.
As we move our program indoors (strength/conditioning focus) for the off-season, we use the first 2-3 weeks to get the players comfortable with the training program, the exercises, the flow of the workout, etc. We use the first few weeks to familiarize the players with the new focus and to identify each players “Level” and need. We then partner up similar players (same goals, level and motivation), and record simple activities (weight used, time, distance, heart rate, etc.) in our focus exercises or drills. This way we can set some baseline scores without going through another testing day and without wasting a training day on testing…especially due to the fact that we already have the most important testing done on the players via the on-field Game Speed Test.
Our training program during the Winter/Summer will cover 3 unique phases (Early Off-Season, Late Off-Season and Pre-Season). We will start off with a non-specific program that builds confidence in simple, athletic movement, strength and fitness with a specific goal of enhancing each players work capacity / efficiency (or their ability to do more work in less time with a lower heart rate). Here is an overview in table format:
Although all players will have the same overall focus, each player will be training at an appropriate level based on their gender, age and competency in each specific training modality. For instance, in one time slot we might have players ranging from U11 to U18, but each player is organized into a group that is running one of 5, progressive levels-based programs. Our advanced players may be supersetting light, modified, barbell cleans or squats with 1 minute sweet spot runs (85% of HR max) on the Curve Treadmill or Cybex Arc Trainer. Our less advanced groups might be working on jump/landing form or performing body weight squatting activities supersetted with rhythmic shuffling, skipping, or jump rope activities. All players are in the same HR zone and focused on broadening their base of work capacity / efficiency, but some are running faster, lifting more and training in a more complex/competitive environment, while others are learning how to move more efficiently, confidently and setting a foundation of strength in a less complex/competitive environment.
This phase will last between 3-6 weeks most likely, depending on how much progress each group is making, and then we will change the training plan, progress the intensity and focus on more sport specific activities. I will try and update this blog with weekly video or exercise analysis to help you follow along. If you would like to stay more connected to this progression or receive updates via email as I post new articles, you can sign up to receive this blog via email in the box on the side bar, or go to the Training Ideas and Discussions page to search for specific posts on topics that interest you. Join in the discussion and ask questions by commenting below so we can create a more educational question and answer forum around this topic.
Good luck this season!