CATERING FOR THE SQUAD
The benefits to a coach of having a larger squad than the number required to play the match are obvious to all: increased competition, cover positionally, flexibility in formation or playing style and cover for injuries etc. But the flip-side to this situation is the fact that those players who do not receive enough match time mat start to de-condition as they are not exposed to the same demands as those who start the match.
Many coaches will stick with a successful formation and may only tinker a little in the search to win the next game on the back of a draw or a defeat. And with many of the subs staying the same it does not take too many matches before those players who you may be relying on to come in and replace a ‘starter’ may not be up to the task. Quite simply this may be down to the fact that immediately post-match they are not catered for on either a physical, technical or psychological level.
Players must, as stressed by the coach, prepare for every match as if they are starting but can often feel neglected as they change out of their match kit without having done more than warm-up before and during the game. With the next training session some days away they can also be left feeling physically unrewarded. This is where every coach must have a post-match strategy that is implemented in a vacuum of the match result.
FOOTBALL OR PHYSICAL? WHY NOT BOTH…
Observe many stadia post-match and in the background of the pitch-side interview with the manager you will often see coaching staff exposing the squad players to a post-match truing session. This will take one of three options; physical only (running!). football only (possession game / SSG) or a combination of football-physical conditioning. The duration and intensity of a post-match session may be influenced on the location or perhaps even the willingness of the host-team to allow floodlights to be left one after the match!
Physical Sessions: These sessions hold try to expose players to the types of distances and intensities that they would have been exposed to in a match; not always easy if you have a mixture of positions training, so normally some element of interval, high-end aerobic session followed by some speed or speed endurance elements! Use the ‘Diagonals’ session or ‘All The Lines’ from your i-Drills Drill Library!
SSG/Possession: This is often determined by the number of players that you have available to you. At a professional club you may have 10 or so players at your disposal but even 4 or 5 is fine. A simple game of 4 v 1 in a 8 x 8m square is a good start point, or perhaps 2 v 2 with a ‘floater’ in a 10 x 10m area. Work for a minimum of 1minute per player and complete 4 rotations.
Combination: Put simply, after the players have completed a warm-up, start with one of the football drills and after each player has completed their turn they should complete one of the conditioning drills. Take into account that those players who have the last turn in the football conditioning elements may not have had adequate recovery to complete the physical element at their top level, and vice versa with respect to the football conditioning elements!
Somewhere between 20-25minutes should be your aim in terms of duration, having made sure that those players have prepared properly in respect of warm-up and flexibility. As a rule of thumb, the ‘playing’ squad should have completed their cool-down and ice-bath or regeneration session, and even may be exiting the showers when the ‘non-playing’ squad is finished their session. Don’t forget to cater for the players with fluids and equipment. there’s nothing that demoralises the squad players more than the feeling that they have been an afterthought to the match. Treat them with repeat and they will be chomping at the bit for you for the next game, whether starting or ready to enter the fray!