“All men are created equal, some work harder in preseason”

IT’S PRESEASON BABY!!! The lead up to any new sporting season is a very busy but exciting time for both coach and athlete. It symbolises a fresh start, a clean slate of endless opportunities to plan, create and execute all of our individual and team goals. Anything is possible at this stage!

Though it is easy to get carried away with all the endless possibilities that lie ahead of us, it is the most critical time of the year to start building the foundations that will pave the road for all of our goals to be executed correctly. Without the careful planning and ground work, it will be very hard for any of the opportunities to manifest.

The Annual Plan – Setting Your GPS!

The annual plan (or macrocycle), will generally be constructed by the coaching staff in team sports. This is where the preseason and competition season is laid out on paper and broken up into different phases (mesocycles) which will give each training block goals, meaning and focus. All of the teams’ or athletes’ seasonal competitions and games are placed onto the planner and it gives perspective as to where the team or athlete needs to be in terms of physical performance and recovery. There will be a critical point of the season where the coach will want the athletes “peaking” or performing at their absolute best, and the annual planner will show exactly when this period is, and the training blocks within the planner will dictate the effort needed to execute this phase. Depending on the sport and athlete, there may be a single peaking phase such as an athlete preparing for the Olympics during their Olympic cycle, or a team may have multiple peaking phases throughout a full season.

The Training Blocks – Time To Get To Work

The early phases of the annual planner will consist of the early preseason, which will be the months leading up to the beginning of the competitive season. The coach and athlete will generally decide on how early to begin this phase. Every athlete and every sport is different in their choice of when to start their off-season training, but one thing is very common across the board….. it’s time to build the base of the pyramid!!

What this means is that it’s time to start rebuilding the foundations that will support training and performance in the coming months. Conditioning will be focusing mostly on volume and building aerobic capacity which will help to support higher intensity work in the next training block. Strength will follow a similar pattern with a higher focus on volume and work capacity, which positively effects hypertrophy for those athletes looking to gain muscle mass to drive maximal strength and power work in the coming training blocks. Strength during this phase will also be focused on movement corrective work and rehabilitation of any injuries sustained during the previous season, due to having the extra time under our belt to add it into the program. Depending on the sport and the athlete, the skill components may or may not be added until later in the preseason, but the focus will generally be where the athlete and coach sees the greatest need for improvement based on the previous season’s results.

Detailed Planning – Are You Prepared For Everything?

Apart from planning out all of the macro cycle, mesocycles and micro cycles, there needs to be some focus on everything outside of training and game day.

Travel – Are you or your team travelling anywhere during this season? For any National level athletes this will be a yes, and therefore some time and effort needs to be put towards making sure this is all taken care of before-hand. If it is left to the last minute it will cause unnecessary stress on the athlete and coaching staff come game or race day.

Sponsors – If you’re an individual athlete competing for yourself then you are aware that every single bit of sponsorship makes a huge difference! The off-season and preseason is a great time to promote yourself to potential sponsors and build your personal brand and the team of support around you.

Equipment – The amount of time I’ve seen athletes scrambling around the week before the first round of competition still trying to organise bikes, boards and the rest of their gear is very concerning. This can cause immense stress and anxiety that potentially un-do a lot the training and planning that you have just completed in the early preseason. Having all of this in place as early as possible will allow you to focus more on the competition and give you confidence in yourself and your team that you have prepared to the best of your ability.

The preseason can have huge impacts on how the upcoming competitive season will unfold. If done correctly and with enough dedication it can be an athlete’s or team’s keystone to success.

As former Dallas Cowboys player Emmitt Smith said, “All men are created equal, some work harder in preseason”…… PLAN, CREATE, EXECUTE.