Enjoy your pre-season build-up

Pre-season training may be important, but there is no reason why it can’t be enjoyable too. In fact, using games can play a vital part in both sharpening and bonding your squad.

Claudio Ranieri

Nantes’ new coach Claudio Ranieri takes pre-season training

Pre-season is an important time for many teams. It is often the first time a coach has met some of the players and more importantly it is a time when the players get their first session with a coach who is new to them. Obviously, making an instant impact and setting the right tone is vital. For players returning to the same coach, there is also a desire for something a little bit different before the season starts to get serious.

There can be nothing worse than getting a lecture about what the coach expects before players have even had the chance to kick a ball. The first thing a young footballer looks for in pre-season training is enjoyment, while the first thing a coach looks for is player involvement and an enthusiasm to come back the following week. But one thing follows on from the other.

If you start your pre-season with laps of the pitch and filling in forms, you could scare players off – but if you use an exciting session, your players will be clamouring to return the next week. The most effective sessions to use with players in pre-season have large amounts of repetition, but fun should always be the priority – it’s the fun that keeps players coming back for more and it’s the repetition of the games that reinforces the learning.

The level of focus is always high when players find they will be playing a fun game, especially if the game has a name that gets their imagination going. But games are also worth using because they are very realistic to what players do in matches.

There are winners and losers, leaders and followers, decisions, teamwork and physical tests. It’s the sign of great session when you see your players are exhausted at the end, having given their all to be the ones that win. Going that extra yard is one of the best ways to get players through pre-season and out the other side 100 per cent ready for the season ahead.


If you want to sharpen your players, try running our fun games and then ask yourself the following questions to check your preseason training session has succeeded…

  • Did players have fun?
  • Was there a lot of repetition?
  • Did the game hide the repetition?
  • Did you see a lot of different techniques?
  • Was there good physical movement?
  • Did players communicate?


Ranieri pre-season Nantes

Claudio Ranieri

As Claudio Ranieri looks ahead to a season with his new club Nantes in France this is a look back at his training regime that won Leicester City the Premier League title. He said: “My boys are training a lot, but not too many times. In England the game is always high intensity and wipes people out. They need more time to recover. We play on Saturdays and then Sunday is free for everyone. We resume on Monday with light training, the way they do it in Italy.

“Tuesday is hard training, Wednesday absolute rest. Thursday another hard workout, Friday is preparation for the match, Saturday another game. I make sure the players have at least two days off from football each week. This is the pact I made with the players on the first day: I trust you. I’ll explain a little football ideas every now and them, as long as you give me everything.”

It appears that Ranieri’s relaxed approach even stretches to the training ground canteen, even though his introduction was a shock. “Sometimes we sit at the dinner table and I am frightened at how much they eat. I’ve never seen players so hungry! The first few times I was surprised, then I learned to smile. If they run this hard, they can eat what they like,” he said.

“In England they are aware they’re young, healthy and in a great job. It would be stupid to waste all that. When they train, they always put the same effort as a match. I never once had to tell someone off for being lazy.”

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