Pre-Season in Football – what may be fun to watch may not be as much fun to play. When you consider all the demands of modern football and burnout experienced by players, it is not as simple as it seems to the distant viewer.
So when a new footballing season is about to start with new aspirations, it represents a unique opportunity for footballers to regroup and prepare for their goals. Ask any professional coach; they will tell you how crucial a good pre-season is. But what is a pre-season? How long is it? And what do professionals do in pre-season? Let’s find out
What is the pre-season?
Pre-season comprises the activities that football players engage in before the start of the official season. A distinction needs to be made with the offseason, which is where players are usually on holiday, and no training takes place.
Pre-season starts once the offseason ends and consists of training, pre-season friendlies, transfers, and other good stuff as players and staff come to terms with the new football season. The usual pre-season lasts for about six weeks, with all the friendlies, drills, and training occurring in these six weeks before the season starts.
Why does Football have a pre-season?
The reason for a pre-season is that during the season, every single game is critical, and football teams can not afford to get off to a slow start. So, football teams like to acclimatize players to situations they would face in actual games and prepare them for it.
Pre-season also helps gel in new signings, which is a significant part of any footballing season. New signings come at a considerable price, with fans wanting to support their new icons. These new players must get off to an excellent start to boost their morale and that of the fans.
Pre-season also offers teams a chance to incorporate young blood into the primary side. Every young player makes mistakes, and instead of players jumping straight into the thick of things, they first go through pre-season.
This often leads to the success stories you see in modern football, with 18-year-olds becoming pivotal members of a squad after an exceptional pre-season campaign.
Is pre-season important?
The importance of pre-season is not lost on professional players. Yaya Toure, the ex-Man City stalwart, said that every player hates pre-season but appreciates the need for it as it helps players prepare for a long season in front of them. One of the reasons why the pre-season is so pivotal is the incredibly strict schedule of the actual season.
There is no time to condition your body with two games a week for the next 40 weeks. So pre-season is the only time to prepare your body and get off to a flyer once the season officially starts.
On the club level, pre-season offers European clubs a chance to diversify their fan base as they often visit the Asian and American markets, interact with fans there, and engage local supporters.
This alone has significant monetary value as most stadiums are packed to the rafters when teams like Real Madrid and Manchester United play in the USA. So, fans in these countries get to watch their favorite superstars in person, and clubs get significant revenue from the packed houses. A classic win-win situation.
What are the critical components of a successful pre-season?
There are a few things every successful pre-season needs to include
In a contact sport such as football where every single tackle and 50-50 ball is contested, having the appropriate strength should not be overlooked. Many experts believe that it is mainly the strength training that helps players get through the season unscathed.
In recent years, we have seen teams like Bayern Munich succeed due to their imposing physique that does not compromise on their athleticism but allows them to win the ball in critical areas of the pitch due to their exceptional strength when pressing.
Mobility is often overlooked in Football training. Most training during the season is concentrated around winning the games and reacting to the opposition. So there’s not much time to work on mobility and improve the flexibility of the footballers. Pre-season gives this opportunity and helps players use the full range of motion in their joints thereby making them flexible.
This makes them agile and quick on the turn, which can be extremely beneficial, especially for pacy attackers.
All training without match practice is futile. So the pre-season friendlies are a great way to improve fitness and practice all the drills and combinations conceived in training. These friendlies are also a great way to incorporate new signings into the club as managers try to figure out where the new players fit in their system.
All this needs to happen before the season begins so that on opening day, everything is fine-tuned.
Ask any professional footballer, perhaps the thing most synonymous with pre-season is running. And for good reason.
This running gives professional physio and trainers a clear indication of where a player is in terms of their fitness and where they need improvement. After all, every player has a heart rate monitor and other equipment that shows the response of the body to different stimuli.
In the six weeks of pre-season, you should not end with how you started. Football is all about progression and pushing physical limits.
So in pre-season, players have to push themselves in order to get the best out of their bodies. It is after all survival of the fittest.
Building technical skills through ball work is essential in winning football matches. This is especially true for young players still trying to find their place in the team and learning their trade.
You may have all the pace and athleticism in the world, but if your pace is not with the ball on your feet, all that goes to waste. So finding that balance is critical in the pre-season.
As a player, what if you lost the pre-season?
If a player loses pre-season, he has to jump straight into the high-intensity world of the regular season. This can make him susceptible to injuries as the body is not prepared to handle such stress.
Usually, if a player misses pre-season, coaches tend to simulate the sort of environment that a pre-season may provide and try to ease the player into action.
Players these days are worth millions, and every single step is vital in keeping them fit. So a pre-season or something resembling it is critical to keep players fit and performing at their highest level.
What are the common mistakes during the pre-season?
There are a few common mistakes that separate good preparation from the bad. To avoid these mistakes, clubs often have professionals overseeing training so that every player gets the best out of pre-season.
The general training done during the regular season may not pay dividends during the pre-season.
Pre-season should be focused more around working on weaknesses and building strengths. Having a specific training protocol not only helps players improve their game but also helps reduce the chances of injury. So physios and analysts are employed to find out what specific training does a player need and how it can help their career.
2.Making Training too Complicated
On the flip side, some players choose a bit too complicated routines that do not exactly benefit them. There is a balance to be sought in such a situation where players should avoid going for too difficult exercises and routines that may end up harming them in the long run.
As mentioned before, it is vital to implement progression in training. So if a player is doing one routine or running a certain amount in a specified time, he should not be doing the same at the end of the pre-season.
Progression is something that helps during the actual season as the workload piles on, and your body has to adapt consequently. So the progression is natural and needs to be implemented during the pre-season. Players that ignore it are much more prone to injuries as the body crumbles under an increased workload.
Every player wants to play and be in contention when the new season starts. So there is always over-enthusiasm where players ignore their knocks and niggles and want to play despite being injured.
Of course, there is the stretching and fatigue, but injuries are a separate entity.
So hopefully, by now, we have answered What is Pre-Season in Football. Every club needs to follow the vital steps of pre-season training as it is a sure-shot way of ensuring that players last a full season intact.
It is also worthwhile to know and avoid the common mistakes of the pre-season. Things like keeping training too general or too complicated, ignoring progression, and small injuries should be avoided if the actual effectiveness of pre-season is to be achieved.