On a recent webinar exploring safe strategies for planning a consolidated pre-season, particularly as teams return to training from regional lockdowns and isolated training, Tony Strudwick from Sheffield Wednesday FC and Wales FA shared the importance of remaining flexible and understanding the complexities of the situation.
Planning ahead, as soon as possible, is going to be critical for ensuring the right framework is in place once returning as a team.
“As soon as that green light goes on to get back to the training ground, it’s very important that we have an appreciation of the current landscape where we’re at and where we want to be,” Strudwick said.
With players currently training in isolation, inside their own homes, most are experiencing “general-specific training as opposed to soccer-specific, or football-specific, training.
“And then there’s probably going to be a free three-to-four week leading period of consolidated preseason and then we’re into the season of what that looks like is essentially nine games in 30 days.
“So not only have we got a short period of time to prepare athletes, but what it looks like from then on is that we’re going to be exposed to match demands every three, four days. So that acute spiking in workloads is going to be very evident and how you manage that is going to be very, very contextual.
“This period that the players have had this eight to nine weeks of building high volume, or building this kind of longer interval-based stuff, which is not in line with what they traditionally do. So that’s going to be a really key learning on the back end of it.”
Because athletes have largely been managing their own performance, having a flexible periodisation plan in place for their return is going to be paramount.
“You put a plan in place, but that’s going to need iteration. That’s going to need iteration on a daily basis and data will drive this process because of the kind of constraints in which we’re working on. And that’s got to be individualised, with live tracking very important from practitioners because we’ve got to ensure with the smaller number of sessions we have, we’ve got to maximise and training opportunities.
With the initial end goal being preparation for match exposure, what is going to drive the process is understanding which key metrics to use as a practitioner.
“Will it be about simulated match-play? Will it be about increasing explosive distance? How do you increase the robustness of your athletes in a small period through maximum velocity training?”
“One of the things that we can’t do as practitioners is reducing this to a simple understanding. Physiology is complex, the training process is complex. And we have to have complex solutions to deal with. So we’ve got a deal effectively with complexity.
“There are different solutions required and there are different ways of navigating and that really comes back to this, this kind of premise around one size will not fit all. So, I think if we’re not careful, if we don’t really consider our decision-making framework, then we go into this chaos or disorder where all hell breaks loose. And we want to get out. But I think it’s very important that we learn as we go in, it’s going to be a constant iteration process.”
“You know training is broken down into distinct training blocks, but of course when we go back to this consolidated preseason we’re not going to have time to do that. We’re not going to have six or seven weeks that we’ve traditionally had. So we can’t have that segregation in the program. We haven’t got a kind of universal time frame for specific fitness adaptations. So we have to think differently.”