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4 pre-season tips for grassroots coaches
With pre-season underway, the prospect of planning and executing preparation for the season ahead can seem daunting for many coaches at grassroots level.
From retaining last season’s players, recruiting and integrating new arrivals, and whipping them all into some form of physical, technical and tactical shape, there’s a lot to tackle.
Basingstoke Town Women’s manager, Nathan Cookson, shares his advice and experiences to hopefully make things a little easier…
01 – BUILDING A SQUAD
“Our first few sessions back in a new season are open training sessions.
“To build a harmonious squad, we feel the new players need to trial us as coaches as much as us trialling them as players. We want them to know they will like what we do as much as we like what they do.
When looking to build a squad, I want to know the new players won’t upset the dynamic and will fit in as people, first and foremost, no matter their ability.”
02 – INTEGRATING NEW PLAYERS
This is important to do quickly to stop divides forming, or different groups or cliques developing within the team, such as old players vs new players.
“There are simple ways to do this, like mixing players up for drills and using practices that require a high amount of communication, which gives players the chance to introduce themselves early on.
“You can also give players leadership roles, like setting up the teams in a match, allowing them to get to know their new teammates.”
03 – FITNESS
“This is the part of pre-season that I don’t think any player truly looks forward to. I know as a player I don’t!
“More so this season than ever, having missed so much time due to Covid-19, I will slowly build up the fitness of players rather than throwing them in at the deep end.
“This is beneficial for a couple of reasons. Firstly, for player enjoyment and, secondly, as it can cause injury if the players over-exert themselves too soon.
“When we first start with fitness, we like to use a ball as much as possible so players can build up their fitness, almost without realising, while getting touches in too. We then go into more fitness-based sessions, without the ball.”
04 – GETTING PLAYERS MATCH READY
“All of the above helps players get on the way to being match ready, but for the final touches I like to include a team meeting.
“This helps the new players understand how we plan to play and their individual player responsibilities. They can also bring up any questions or suggestions they might have.
“Once everyone is on the same page, small-sided games can be useful in bringing out certain tactical and technical parts of how we want to play.
“Match scenarios can also be useful in magnifying parts of the pitch and working on specific areas to improve. This can all end with full-sized games.
“These can be coached at times, but it’s also important to allow them to naturally flow, as this can help players make their own decisions.
“Making practices more game-realistic and random helps players’ thought processes.
If they make mistakes, they can learn – and hopefully any successes they have can be replicated on the pitch on match day.”