As pre-season winds down and the season gets underway, many coaches are now moving into a competitive game schedule. This transition can potentially see a change in the type of training that a coach may plan for. For example, with a higher volume of games, the physical load of training can be modified with more recovery sessions now required in the periodization model. As a result, coaches can change the type of training towards less physicality and perhaps more focus on technical aspects of the game. As always, however, coaches will want to maximize their time with the players and make it consistent with their game models and playing philosophy. Below are three different ideas that coaches can work on at the beginning of a session that can be part of a warm-up or even specific positional work that can be done in smaller groups.
Find the Free Player Warm-Up
Inside a 20 yard radius circle, players are split into two teams. One team will start inside the circle with a ball each and the other team will be placed around the circle without a ball. The objective of the exercise is to dribble around the square and find a free player on the outside and pass the ball to them. As soon as the ball is passed, the player must then sprint and receive the ball again (at an angle) before dribbling in the square and then repeating the action with a different outside player. Switch roles after every 60 seconds and after 3 times, take a one-minute break. Repeat three times.
Atletico Madrid Passing Exercise
Ten players are positioned around a two rectangle grids. The inside rectangle is 8x12 yards and the outside rectangle is 15x25 yards (the sizes can change depending on the physical objectives). One ball starts in each corner and players move through a pattern where the ball is played into the small rectangle and then out to the bigger rectangle. This creates a hybrid of combination play (shorter distances passes) and longer passes to the outside. Play 3v4 minutes and change direction after each set.
Positional Passing Circuits
Another option for a coach is to split the team into positional groups and work through a set of small patterns and combination play towards a smaller goal. This is a good way to strengthen relationships and paint specific pictures that a goal may want to communicate in certain areas of the pitch. In the example below, the attacking players in a 4-3-3 are working together to combine into the mini-goal. Rather than rotate and move to the next cone, players can stay in the same position here and get a high levels of repetition specific to the areas that they will play on a game day.