It was three years ago this month that one of my good friends introduced me to Raymond Verheijen and the training method of Football Periodisation. For those unfamiliar with Raymond, which I was at the time, reading his book on Football Periodisation: Always Play with Your Strongest Team was the equivalent of taking the red pill in the movie The Matrix. Once you understand it, you will never look at football the same way again.
I decided to read it, and down the rabbit hole I went.
For those who haven't read it, I will try to give as brief of a synopsis as I can, although you are better off reading it for yourself. Basically, Raymond has developed a periodized training model based specifically on the game of football itself. This involves manipulating the following variables
1. The number of players
2. The size of the pitch
3. The work duration
4. The rest duration
5. The number of sets
Raymond's model has three categories of games, based on the football characteristic he is looking to train:
1. 3v3 or 4v4 | (Extensive Interval Training)
2. 5v5 - 7v7 | (Intensive Endurance Training)
3. 8v8 - 11v11 | (Extensive Endurance Training)
In 3v3/4v4 games, coaches are overloading the players ability to Perform More Actions per minute and Recover Quicker between actions.
In 5v5 - 7v7 games, coaches are overloading the players ability to Maintain Many Actions per minute and Maintain Quick Recovery between actions.
In 8v8 - 11v11 games, coaches are also overloading the players ability to Maintain Many Actions per minute and Maintain Quick Recovery between actions.
Raymond's model is based on the fundamental characteristics of the game, and the model tries to force coaches to explain themselves in specific, football related language.
Coach One: "We conceded in the last 5 minutes of the match because we are not fit."
Coach Two: "We conceded in the last 5 minutes of the match because we were unable to maintain our playing style for the full 90 minutes."
By explaining fitness in these terms, it is much easier to address the problem.
Coach One will try to fix the problem by doing isolated fitness away from football.
Coach Two will try to fix the problem by training football conditioning games of 11v11 to overload the 'Maintain Many Actions' characteristic of football.
So we have the same problem, looked at with two different viewpoints, and solved with two different answers. The second coach has solved the problem with objective football specific training, while the first has tried to fix the problem by referring to subjective thinking.
The challenging part of implementing Raymond's model, which I began to learn, was applying this theory to practice, specifically, to a grassroots team.
This is when I had my 'eureka' moment that there needed to be some type of app to help coaches organize their sessions, with minimal cost, without an overload of data for the coach.
1. Minimal Staff
At grassroots level, most teams are operating with a single coach (or two if they are lucky). That coach is responsible for everything, including set-up of the pitch, running the session, and setting the formations of the teams. If you are going to implement Football Conditioning, the pitch sizes need to be specific to the # of players who are involved. It's very difficult to try and set up a new pitch size and run a session by yourself at the same time.
2. Unknown # of players
The periodisation is going to be dictated by how many players you have available. If I plan conditioning session of 8v8 - 11v11, and then only 12 players show up, I'll have to adjust on the fly and change to 6v6 conditioning, which may not address the issue I saw in the last match, and might not follow the periodisation model I had planned out.
3. No objective way of receiving feedback from players
If I want to push my team in conditioning games, I am going to look for the 'zero-point', which Raymond describes as the moment where the tempo begins to drop and players need encouragement to push through this fatigue.
The only issue here is that the session is always going to be more intense for different players, and especially in different positions. I've noticed that center backs and strikers are more likely to find a session less intense than wide and central midfielders.
You also might show up with a conditioning session planned, and realize in the warm up that the players seem very fatigued, which would not be conducive to a hard football conditioning session that day.
How does SoccerPulse help address these issues?
With SoccerPulse, when you post a training session, players respond and say whether they are attending or not. If they change their decision, you are notified instantly with a push notification. This means you can plan a few weeks in advance, and if you need to adjust a few days before, you can.
This makes planning out a 6 week model much easier.
To solve the 3rd issue, there are two types of feedback a coach can receive from players using SoccerPulse.
1. Daily Readiness Questionnaire
2. Session Intensity Questionnaire
The daily questionnaire helps give me an idea if the day I've chosen for Football conditioning is right for the players at this part in our season. The readiness score combines a player's soreness, fatigue, stress, and sleep on a scale of 1-10. I can look back over a week, a month, three months or all
time to look for trends.
The big thing I've noticed so far is when players aren't sleeping well, their recovery from games and intense sessions takes longer than expected.
The session intensity questionnaire is my favorite, because at the conclusion of training, players will be asked how intense the session was on a scale of 1 - 10, with 1 being extremely light and 10 being max-effort.
Since I am running the session myself, it isn't easy to watch each player all the time to look for signs of exhaustion or overtraining, which would be much easier to spot if you had a staff of 5 or so. But knowing how they feel going into the session and seeing a quick snapshot at the end, gives me a fairly good idea where the players stand.
To be clear - my view on SoccerPulse, despite being it's creator, is that it is only a tool to be used by coaches to help supplement things that they see with their eyes and to make planning training easier.
You should not be basing all your decisions on data alone, which is a scary trend seen in lots of big programs with fancy equipment. Coaches receive detailed GPS data, Heart Rate values, blood work samples, and there is so much data they can't possibly know how to interpret it all of it accurately.
SoccerPulse keeps it simple. All your players need is an iPhone or Android, and the ability to answer two questions. How am I feeling today, and how intense did the session feel.
If you are interested in trying SoccerPulse free for two weeks, you can download it today from the iOS App Store. The Android version will be available on August 1st, 2017.
I'd love to get other coaches feedback on this and if you would like to try SoccerPulse free for a month, I'd be happy to issue you one of the few codes I have available. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org