Return to Team Training

As certain football associations around the country have started to provide direction and protocols in regards to returning to training, the key question now becomes how to go about re-introducing training?


Both from a load-management point of view, but also from a how to conduct the training point of view, given certain restrictions that are still in place. The overall direction being that full squads certainly wont be training together just yet, but rather that groups will be allowed to break up into a maximum of groups of 10 players.


There are also restrictions around how many can access the change rooms at any given time, as well as strapping protocols etc, but we will focus on the first 2 points.


In regards to breaking the overall squad up into groups of 10 or less, this provides some potential benefits – as it isn’t too dissimilar to the way training sessions can be run (certainly at higher levels) anyway – into forwards, midfielders, defenders, or breaking the squad up into groups and practicing certain areas of the game (center bounces, goal kicking, forward line throw ins, etc.)


Strangely enough training in the smaller groups allows for training to be completed quicker – in the sense that what would normally take 90 minutes to get through, will take no more than 60 (things just move quicker and work quicker and transition between exercises quicker with less numbers.)


But how to go about the actual re-introduction of training?


Load Management

This is a challenging question at every level, let alone at local football level where the difference between the best physically prepared players and the worst physically prepared players in a squad is enormous. Some players would have kept in very good physical condition over the last couple months, while some may have barely left the couch. As such you end up with situation where whatever training load you look to reintroduce is almost limited by the least prepared players.


However, in splitting training up into groups, one option that makes a lot of sense is dividing up into where players rate their current physical condition or what their training statues has been like over the last 2 months. The fittest or best prepared or most active players over the last 2 months are grouped, then the next, then the next. This does not mean that the type of training they do will differ enormously (coordinating this in a local/country/amateur set up is very tough), but what it does mean is that the intensity and quality of the workload that they do will be better suited to each other within the group. Additionally, there would also likely be more of a similar ‘mindset’ within such groups. Having said that, some coaches out there may see the merit in mixing the different levels together to raise the standard of the less prepared players, but personally I would always put the groups based on current physical preparation.


So the reintroduction to training involves splitting into groups of similar condition. Whether this is 4 or 5 groups of 10, or 5 or 6 groups of 8 depends a lot on the number of players who return and the dynamic of your club. But that is the starting point.


So when the larger squat is broken up into smaller groups – the 3 or 4 groups can alternate in different orders – 2 groups are doing the drill component while 2 other groups do the running/conditioning component.


Or Additionally – you may rotate 2 groups through per night, or per time slot (2 groups at 5.30pm and 2 groups at 6.30pm) – where each group takes it in turn and alternates from week to week with the time slot.


Once again, it depends on what is available at your club, although for most clubs when the seniors are training, they have the entire oval, which is good. And in saying that, coming on additional nights probably takes away oval time for juniors, so sticking exclusively to the same nights that the seniors normally train is the better option – just cycle in on the hour.


The next question is what to do in regards to training itself – how much, what types of drills, what length of time, how much of it competitive.


In a nutshell, in the initial period back – say the first couple weeks;

-Limit sessions to 45 minutes, building up to 60 including the warm up and cool down

-Basic MAS tempo runs

-Drilling – get used to the load of kicking – reintroduce it

-Some goal kicking

-Potentially some basic strength work late in sessions – split squat variations, push ups, multi-direction lunges, bodyweight RDL’s, or isometric hold variations of similar movements to these. But again, not as important, just a nice bonus for 10 minutes to finish with – especially early on, where more kicking-based and running-based loading would be far more taxing than some basic strength work and body control.


Over the following couple weeks;

-Holding training length at around 60 minutes – but increasing the intensities

-Building up the running – and also combining with more physical components - including body contact, wresting, potentially full tackling, but also combining with kick-to-kick in between the runs, or with a set shot after each run. This is very similar to the approach that we covered when discussing training in small groups away from the team/club setting. This is essentially the same restrictions here.

-1 or 2 key themes related to game plan can also be incorporated in – either combined in between a running based drill, or in between the very basic skill drilling (say zone set up – practicing a flat out defensive transition in the middle of s skill drill – and depending on size – this transition spread becomes the conditioning component as well.)

-Similarly to above – Goal kicking combined in with running or other drill. (Only 1 shot at a time – no point taking shots one after the other – you wont get that in a game.)

-But in short, with a greater tolerance to kicking having been built, increasing the exposures now.


Next 2 weeks

-At this stage – we may be allowed to conduct full training again

-Full ground drills

-Topping up the running – although full ground drills should also now be getting a lot of extra running in.

-Building again on the intensity of the work – at this stage could look pretty similar to normal training – by the end of this 2 weeks.


6 weeks is a nice spread of time.


So that is a quite broad outline and progression. But a little more specifically, what would this look like? Practically speaking.


Demo session layout of what 1 night each week may look like for 6 weeks;


Week 1 (45 Minutes)

1.Basic skills 1 – kick-to-kick, progressing into short lane work (re-introducing the load on tissue gradually) 8 minutes


2.Running block 1 -12 x 15/15. 15 seconds to cover a 70-80m distance (as an example - more or less depending on the group), 15 seconds of complete recovery. Repeat for 12 repetitions. 6 minutes


3.Basic skills 2 – More basic kick and handball – again – largely aimed at gradually building up the tissue tolerance. 8 minutes


4.Running block 2 – Repeat the above Running block for a second set. 6 minutes


5.Basic strength circuit to finish (note, adding such basic bodyweight exercise in to part of the warm up is also an option – in terms of ‘active range of motion stretches’.)

-Push-ups (not pumping out 50 shit partial range of motion push ups, but say 6-8 with a 3 second count on the way down, a 3 second iso hold at the bottom and then a fast push back up)

-Rear foot elevated split squat (team mate holds the back leg) 5-6 each side

-Bodyweight RDL – progress to a knee drive at the top 5-6 each

-Lateral Lunge – 5-6 each

-Plank/Brace 30-60

(2-3 sets of each) 8-10 minutes


Week 2 (60 minutes)

1.Basic skills 8 minutes


2.Running block 1. Progress the 15/15 to 16 repetitions, maintaining the same distance. 10 minutes


3.Skill drill – expanding out, slightly more complexity 8 minutes


4.Running block 2 – 15/15 runs – dropping back to 12 repetitions – but increase the distance slightly (greater intensity, less volume) 6 minutes


5.Basic skill drilling and/or or fun skills game of some sort (just increasing the kicking load gradually a little more) 8-10 minutes


6.Basic strength circuit

4-5 basic exercises of some sort for one more week 8-10 minutes


Week 3

1.Basic skills 8 minutes


2.Running block 1. 15/15 - 16 repetitions at that increased distance. 10 minutes


3.Skills drill – now incorporating 1 or 2 key game-plan based themes that the coach/es want to play with. Whether this be incorporating a defensive transition into a drill (which has the added advantage of the extra running work in too) – or just the basic direction/ball movement of a drill (etc). Key point – now here after a couple weeks of basic drilling, this would be where to bring a little more of this in practically speaking. 10-12 minutes


4.Running block 2. 4 point post to point post (half lap) run throughs. Not quite flat out sprints but still quick tempo (40-45 seconds). 1 or 1.5 minute recovery. BUT you must also take a set shot for goal in the first 30 seconds that you are at that end (goal kicking practice – in a functional relevant fatigued state – and you only get 1 KICK.) Progress this by taking it in turns with a partner who stands the mark. 10 minutes

5.More skills/game plan combination work – based around the coaches game-plan for the season (and also dependent on the way your team has chosen to break up their groups.) Again, while in pods, the read technical or intricate game plan things are very hard and impractical to work on at a local club – and simplicity will work better. Again, just one or 2 themes of focus into relatively basic drills or small sided (3 x 3 with subs, 4 v 3 with subs, etc) competitive games will be the way. 10 minutes


Week 4

1.Basic skills 8 minutes


2.Running block 1. Combination with body contact/wrestling. (Continuing to increase the match-play carryover in the conditioning work);

10 seconds up (50-60 meters), 10 seconds complete rest

10 seconds to get back (50-60 meters)

straight into 10 seconds wrestle with an opponent (aim to get opponent on the ground)

20 seconds recovery (Making it a nice and even 1-minute schedule)

Repeat 4-6 repetitions 4-6 minutes


3.Skills drill – incorporating certain patterns/themes. 10-12 minutes


4.Running block 2. Repeat the half lap run through – with a couple changes;

-Increase the intensity (lower the time to complete by a few seconds)

-Increase the rest time to 2-2.5 minutes (2 minutes if 4 reps, 2.5 if 6 reps.)


-Take your goal kick within 30 seconds again

-Then continue the rest of that rest time in a basic 20-30 meter kick to kick with a team mate until the next repetition

4-6 repetitions (10-12 minutes)


5.Skills drill and game-based/small sided game combination. 8-10 minutes


Week 5

At this stage we are assuming that we are back to full squat training allowed. At this stage, training will look pretty similar overall to what it did in March, albeit we are still building up a little over the next couple weeks to those levels of condition. As a result it is still a good idea to top up with some extra running-based work. It would also be a good idea to gradually increase the training time rather than spiking it straight back to 2 hours. Add an extra 15 minute block at a time, no more.


More full ground drills will take care of a lot of the running-based work. However there are a couple of the drills listed above that remain very good even under full training;


1.The run/wrestle combination.

Stick to the 10/10/10/10/20 combination – add a couple extra reps in.

1 set of 6 or even 2 sets of 4. They mimic the fatigue and physicality of match requirements, without the same level of high impact as full tackling and bumping.


2.The half lap run throughs with a goal kick at the end of each half lap. (Perform towards the end of training as a ‘top up’ in running as well as getting that bit of goal kicking practice in under physical match conditions.)


Week 6

Very much building on what is listed for week 5 above


Training now should look very much the same as prior to the shut down.


This will leave you heading into round 1 having hopefully built up gradually layer upon layer over a 6 week block – and layering in a few aspects of game plan to a solid foundation of skills, conditioning, and importantly soft tissue robustness.


These smaller training pods – provided they are well planned and structured – will actually allow a high amount of quality training to be achieved. Shorter training sessions, which are focused and specific, and will also be player driven - with one or 2 leaders per pod essentially directing it early, before then it being driven by the whole pod of players themselves. There is tremendous benefit with this already – let alone the fact that teams are able to turn the negative of the shut down into multiple positives as a result.

Naturally these sorts of things need to be manipulated and adapted to your teams situation, however the principles remain the same. For  little more specific direction, feel free to contact, or if your own individual program is still a priority, head over to the programs section.


5-6 weeks out from round 1. Lets get to it.

Strength Coach


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