It’s the middle of August, and for university soccer teams across the country – and also across the continent – that means the start of pre-season training. Typically, pre-season schedules involve two, and sometimes even 3 training sessions per day, for 2-3 weeks, with other inter-squad and exhibition games mixed in, and very few if any days off. I’ve personally been a part of about one dozen pre-seasons, first as a university player, and then as an assistant coach and fitness coach with several different college and university teams. For university players, one of the most common themes of this very demanding time of year is invariably going to be fatigue, which can simply decrease performance or, even worse, lead to injuries. Unfortunately, as two-/ three-a-day pre-season training schedules have become the norm in university soccer, players must basically resign themselves to the fact that they are going to be in constant pain for this time period, and that they will be lucky to get out of it without picking up an over-use injury.
With almost perfect timing, an excellent article and interview of Raymond Verheijen was posted by www.socceranywhere.com on Thursday of last week. Verheijen is a professional coach and fitness coach from the Netherlands, and a world-renowned expert in periodization of fitness training in soccer, who has worked with numerous professional clubs and national teams in the past 20 years. One of the main things he advocates regarding fitness training for soccer is for coaches to use a science-based, or objective, approach to planning their training. In discussing the dangers of over-training, he had the following to say:
“Overtraining has to do with fatigue. To understand what is important you must understand the characteristics of football in the context of developing players. At a higher level of the game you find that there is less space and less time – you must execute the same football actions in a shorter period of time with greater speed. What this means is that football is an intensity game, it’s a speed of action game, and not an endurance game. If it was an endurance game then more would be better – we would train teams longer. As it is an intensity sport, less is more. Training smarter with a higher intensity is more effective. This is not an opinion to be debated, it is objective fact. If speed of action is your objective then your worst enemy is fatigue. If you are still tired from your last training session then you will start with a lower than 100% speed of action. You will not stretch any boundaries or reach 101%. Fatigue within a training session is normal, but fatigue as a result of the previous session is your worst enemy. Between training sessions players should get rid of all of the fatigue so that they start at 100% at the next session. Only then can you improve yourself, from the perspective of performance.”
It will be very interesting to see how long it takes (if ever) for this kind of objective approach to catch on in university soccer. I suspect that the first few coaches and schools who start to lower their training volume and focus exclusively on intensity may be seen as being “too soft” and “not fit enough for the college/university environment.” If improved player performance is the ultimate goal, however, then a pre-season training plan based on objective facts is the only way to achieve it. Below is a link to the full article/interview:
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