Pre-season is a side to football many players and mangers dread.
As a player you know it's going to be tough, no matter how much hard work you put in over the off-season. Most days you are driven to exhaustion, you are put through your paces in a six week attempt to gain a level of fitness deemed acceptable for competition.
For a manager it's not about the physical demands, but the pressure and stress of forming a new and hopefully successful team. The skill of bringing in and keeping the right players, all within a budget which sometimes doesn't allow you to spend a penny.
A daily routine may consist of 2-3 sessions which might not sound tiring but when broken down it certainly reveals the high level of exercise a professional footballer has to endure.
Here is an example of a typical day in pre-season:
- Training always begins with a warm up, in order to prevent injury.
- Followed by speed work, for improved agility, power and also speed endurance.
- Next players are divided up, and work on position specific exercises. For example, defenders perform drills on heading, all with a high intensity fitness element attached.
- The squad will then join as a whole again, to form teams in a conditioned match, allowing the manager and coaches to control time, touches on the ball and the numbers of players per game.
A break for lunch follows and a chance for players to gain precious rest.
After lunch it's back out onto the training pitches for more football, and the main focus building up match fitness, in the form of games and drills. If the management feel more work needs to be done, a further running session is then carried out, varying from short sprints to slightly longer endurance based runs.
The final session takes place in the gym focusing on core stability work, leg strengthening and upper body weights.
Here's what some of the Doncaster Rovers first team players said when asked to describe pre-season in three words:
'Hard-work, Desire, Team-Spirit' Martin Woods
'Determined, Disciplined, Bonding' Tommy Spurr
'Will-Power, Competition, Enjoyment' Chris Brown
Pre-season training is vital in the preparation for an up and coming campaign. As a footballer it is best to embrace the challenge and enjoy the chance to gain your ultimate fitness. It is a time to build new partnerships on the field and friendships within the dressing room as the prospect of a new season awaits.
Most footballers will talk of pre-season negatively but the majority of players, come the end of their break, are itching to return to training and enjoy the build up and anticipation even though it's tough.