Man, six weeks can fly by. It seems like only yesterday that everyone was saying their goodbyes after the postseason tour. But, this week, the players, coaches and medical staff returned to The Home Depot Center to start to prepare for the upcoming season to defend the MLS Cup championship and Supporters’ Shield title.
With a combination of new and returning players, our first priority is to assess their health and fitness levels so that we can begin to form a fitness profile for each athlete and start to build individual plans based on their strengths and weaknesses. We will also use these results to begin planning all of our practice sessions on the pitch and in the gym.
The first thing the players do upon returning to the club is go through entrance physicals with the team doctors to check for major injuries or health related issues that need to be addressed.
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From there the players get turned over to the rest of the training staff, myself included, and we start to assess them through a series of movement screens, body composition testing and fitness tests to establish where they’re at physically.
The first movement screen that we do with the players is the Functional Movement Screen (FMS), which we discussed at length last season. The FMS is a series of seven different exercises that allow us to analyze how the body is moving and consequently adjust the players’ lifting and injury prevention programs based off of how well they perform the exercises and if they are feeling pain with any of them.
After performing this preliminary screen, we will use the first couple days of our fitness week to test the players on their vertical jump, broad jump, 30-meter sprint, 30-meter repeated sprint and overall agility. We’ll test general fitness levels with a timed run and establish heart rate zones, anaerobic threshold levels and VO2 max levels.
The rest of this first week will be more for easing the guys into the season with movement, lifting and conditioning sessions as well as getting plenty of touches with the ball so that they start to get their body awareness and coordination back.
The soccer portion of each session this week will consist mostly of station work with passing and dribbling drills but we will also allow the players to compete in larger possession games. The idea being that we will build time and intensity into these games as we get further into the preseason.
While allowing the players to play in the larger possession games will serve as fitness and conditioning in and of itself, we will also provide additional fitness work, if necessary. That determination is made on an individual basis and is dependent on the training load each player has accumulated over that practice session. If necessary, we’ll give them additional runs of various lengths, intensities, and duration.
While the focus of this first week is on fitness we still need to make sure that we are controlling the volume and intensity of the players’ workouts so that we can progress them safely and appropriately through the preseason. After this week we will slowly start adding in more and more soccer as we ultimately prepare our team for their first match of the season on March 7 vs. Toronto FC in the CONCACAF Champions League.
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