This session is varied in terms of its technical and tactical focus but the main theme is speed preparation with short, sharp drills to emphasise the quick physical nature of the session.
It is a session that’s full of different drills and exercises and covers physical, technical and tactical elements of the game in order to keep players working hard and thinking.
We used this session in the build-up to the Belgium Euro 2016 qualifying fixture at home in June. Because this international break fell at the end of the season, we had slightly longer to prepare and so the aim of this was to give the squad a good workout with high intensity practices helping to maintain fitness levels.
Warm-up and dynamic exercises
We like to mix up the exercises and stretches, starting with a slow jog and building up in intensity (1).
Each exercise that follows strengthens the core, whilst challenging players to slow down into and spring away from positions.
We set up the four activities, as shown (2), splitting the squad into groups. Once players reach the top of the practice they return to the back of their lines. We then shift groups to the right for the next challenge. The activities are:
Dead leg runs
Players use quick feet to move over the four mini-hurdles, then sidestep to the right, and continuing forward over the next four.
Players sidestep across the hurdles working from left to right, then advance forward and move right to left, then back to the start. When the end of each line is reached the emphasis must be on pushing away from the direction the player is moving in.
This is similar to dead leg runs except we can vary the number of feet landing, from one at a time into each advanced space, to planting both feet in each area, then moving away quickly.
To complete, players work one at a time, weaving through the mannequins, exploding into a sprint to the top cone, then rounding it and jogging back.
Technical passing drills
We set up two simple passing drills in a 12×12-yard area as shown (3,4). In these, we require the players to make explosive runs as they follow each pass made, before using the time off the ball to recover.
To add a technical element, and where reds are passing around a blue defender, we ask these attackers to hold their runs and not drift into an offside position before the through ball is played.
Shape practice and small-sided games
We’ve left this open to allow coaches to work on the tactical aspects most important to their team. At this stage of the session we would expect players to be working at full speed in a competitive game scenario, so set up an initial pitch to practice formation shape and systems such as blind side runs, overlaps, overloads and more (5). Then on a 10v10 small-sided game set-up, we play out what has been taught whilst also embracing the earlier exercises and moves (6).
I like to complete training with a finishing practice so that players can leave feeling confident, so we have three players in a group, with three different scenarios ending with one shot at goal each, as shown below right (7).
How do I progress the session?
The aim of this session is, ultimately, to get players working at high intensity for short periods. This will increase as the session goes on before returning back to a lower level for the finishing drill where they should be working at a more relaxed (yet optimum) level.
What are the key things to look out for?
The key theme for this session is speed preparation – we want to encourage our players to be explosive on and off the ball when necessary.
There are also some classic mistakes to keep a look out for and eliminate. Some players might cheat and jog when they should be working explosively, yet as coaches, we must make sure we emphasise the importance of working hard and managing the time of each drill properly. If we see players growing tired, we will pause the session and allow them to recover. It’s important to get quality in the session as opposed to quantity, so we’ll always aim to keep it short but sharp.