As soccer evolves, the competitive season is getting longer, and players face continuously increasing demands. One of the key aspects of the training calendar is the off-season, and we must carefully balance the goals of all parties involved: the player, the coaching staff, and the high-performance team:


  • Players will be on a spectrum; some will want or need some heavy time off, while others will want to keep training to earn a starting spot. 
  • The coaching staff always wants to continue to develop their players, and, in their eyes, the off-season is the perfect period to achieve that goal. 
  • The high-performance team lives in the middle and will gauge what is best for the player from a physical and mental standpoint while considering everyone’s desired goals. 


Planning for the upcoming season and determining training rhythm and associated training load progression is the first step in getting the off-season right and setting the team up for optimal preparation and success the following year. 

In fact, reverse planning is a very common thinking process regularly used in professional sports; we study the end goal and its demand and requirements and work backward to build a plan that will help us grow to that desired outcome. 

Next, I will go through a series of bullet points highlighting the basics steps in planning for the upcoming season:

Some Needed Context to Start:

  • We know that we will have a six-week pre-season.
  • The aim is to prepare the player to play 90 minutes on week six and prepare for the first game of the season. 
  • To keep it simple, let’s use total distance (TD) from GPS technology to assess the training demands. 
  • Playing for 90 minutes roughly represents 10km, which represents one game load (GL).
  • Coach’s seven-day training rhythm: light, medium, heavy, OFF, light, game, OFF. 


Reverse Planning That Will Influence Our Decision-Making for the Off-Season Plan

  • Week six target: 2.2xGL = 12km in training + 10km in-game (2x45min game).
  • Week five target: 1.9xGL = 12km in training + 7km in game (2x35min game).
  • Week four target: DELOAD – 1.4xGL = 12km in training + 2km in game (2x10min game).
  • Week three target: 1. 8xGL = 12km in training + 6km in game (2x30min game).
  • Week two target: 1.6xGL = 10km in training + 6km in game (2x30min game).
  • Week one target: 1.4xGL = 10km in training + 4km in game (2x20min game).

Now that we have a rough plan of the demands of pre-season, we can work backward and plan our off-season. To keep it simple, I will focus on a 90-minute player that will have a nine-week off-season.


Off-Season Planning – Three Phases:


Phase Three: Preparation (three weeks) – return to field-based training & conditioning + lift 2x/week:

  • Week Three Target: 1.2xGL = 10km of field training + Fun pick-up game (15-20min).
  • Week Two Target: 1xGL = 8km of field training + Fun pick-up game (15-20min).
  • Week One Target: 0.8xGL = 6km of field training + Fun pick-up game (15-20min).


Phase Two: Activation (three weeks) – return to gym-based training & conditioning + lift:

  • Week Three Target: lift x2 + 3 aerobic conditioning sessions.
  • Week Two Target: Llift x2 + 3 aerobic conditioning sessions.
  • Week One Target: re-Intro to lift x 2+ 2 aerobic conditioning sessions. 


Phase One: Rest and Recovery (three weeks) – physical and mental reset:

  • Week Three Target: vacation + 2 x re-intro to lift.
  • Week Two Target: vacation + anything light but soccer.
  • Week One Target: vacation + anything light but soccer.


With this approach, we allow enough time for the body to adapt through slowly progressing physical loads. The activation phase and preparation phase help us bridge the gap between a drop in overall capacity during the rest period and the required capacity needed for the start of the pre-season. 


Note: It is important to remember that all loads are not created equal and that many other factors come into play when we train our athletes. Intensity is a perfect example of a variable that I am not discussing here – but one that will have a major influence on mitigating injuries through the pre-season.