PRE-SEASON | WEEK 4: Focus on the first game


Your players have made it to week 4 with the first whistle of the new season not far away. But before it blows you’ve got one final week to get your players through so they are ready and focused for that first match of the season. If you have followed Soccer Coach Weekly’s guide you should be seeing your players react in training or friendly games with good decision making and much faster speed of play.

The last pre-season training session is all focusing on that first game and getting your players ready to take it on. You’re looking for the final pieces of the jigsaw to fit into place with your players, as they put into practice everything they’ve learnt so far.

The essential warm up

As always, a decent warm-up is essential. Repeat the ideas from the previous sessions though this time incorporate jumping and bounding so as to really stretch your players, making the most of their ever-strengthening aerobic base.

Running with the ball

It’s good to get players running with the ball quickly too. Sometimes dribbling drills can be complex and convoluted, but even a simple ‘run and lay off’ practice will get players rehearsing close control and positive movement.

In the example given, we’ve just placed two cones 20 yards apart with a player on each cone and a running player in between. Each time the running player gets to a cone he passes to a team mate who then sprints to the opposite cone with the ball, and so on. Remember to shorten or lengthen the distance between the cones to decrease or increase the intensity.

Refresh drills from previous weeks

It’s always a good idea to reference again practices from the previous sessions in which you feel your players could still improve.

So whether their ball control needs work, their crossing and finishing could be improved upon, or the intense 1v1s could be better played out, always go back over old drills. Players will approach them fresh and optimistic of performing better than they did last time.

Formation shape

The final training session also offers a great opportunity to rehearse shape work and other tactical ideas prior to the opening match of the season. You should have a clear idea of how you want your team to play, so run through some basic ideas with players, and do the drills unopposed at first so as not to complicate the procedure.

Either gradually bring in opposition players, or go straight into the small-sided game to see players putting the ideas into immediate practice.


half time tacticsAfter the small-sided game, you should get your players to warm down, then sit them around in a circle and ask for their feedback on pre-season. The players should be feeling a lot fitter, with a collection of tactical and technical ideas that’s small enough for them to learn well whilst not being overbearing or difficult to remember.


No.5: Injury worries?
Many coaches worry that players returning from a break are susceptible to injuries during pre-season, meaning
they miss the start of the campaign.

But research carried out by European sports psychologists Brito, Rebelo, Soares, Seabra, Krustrup and Malina found that fears were largely unfounded.

A total of 912 youths aged 12 to 19 years were assessed during the preseason of 2009/10 season, with clubs’ medical staff recording all injuries. From this, estimated injury rates per 1,000 hours of action were calculated.

On average, there were just 1.8 injuries per 1,000 hours of pre-season training and 6.7 injuries per 1,000 hours in pre-season matches. Injuries were sustained by 7.2% of players during pre-season, and 79% of those injuries involved the lower limbs, of which 23% were located to the thigh. Muscle strains and contusions were the most common injuries caused by tackles.

The researchers found that there was no age-related trend in the incidence of pre-season injuries, and that during
this training period, coaches should expect their players to sustain a majority of muscle strains, especially in the thigh region.

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