Winning a football, basketball, or handball game depends on many factors. Many of them are beyond the coach’s control. An extraordinary performance of the opponent, an unfair referee decision or luck are aspects that can determine a result, and that cannot be trained. That is why we must pay all our attention exclusively to what can be controlled, that is, what depends only on us. Being well prepared for the game is the coach’s most important task. It is about doing everything possible to prepare the players to face the opponent they have each week.
A good preparation for the next game should consider some basic characteristics:1,2
- All games are equally important. Winning a strong or weak opponent is worth three points in both cases (in football). We need to try to win every game.
- In team sports, coaches’ planning is based on the microcycle. A microcycle is a period that goes from match to match.
- For the correct preparation of the game, it is convenient to divide the tasks. There are many things to do, and the most advisable thing is to distribute the work among the members of the coaching staff. When organising group work, we highly recommend proceeding according to the following guidelines.3. Do you want your collaborators to be clear about their roles? Speak clearly. Tell them what you expect of them and how you like things done. Do you want them to accept it? Connect it with your needs. We all like to do some tasks more than others. Do you want them to comply with it? You must agree with them on compliance indicators, for example, when you need to have the rival team’s report, what you want your second coach to transmit to you, and so on.
- You must prepare the game considering the week as a whole and not just day by day. It is first about organising the whole microcycle together and then paying attention to what needs to be done each day.
- Coaches must have some flexibility in their game preparation. The result of the previous match, the injuries, the players’ good or bad feelings can modify the proposal made before starting the week.
- The coaching staff must have a clear and well-defined routine to prepare each game in the same way: what needs to be done, who will do it, when it needs to be completed and how they should do it.
- The preparation for the next game begins just when the previous one ends.
The preparation of the game should be organised in five phases. 1,2 First of all, you need to have a detailed description of the opposing team. As soon as a match has finished and the coach evaluates what happened, you must start working on the next game. For that purpose, it is necessary to prepare the opponent team’s game plan that consists of a detailed analysis of the line-up that will be proposed and substitutions, game systems they use, individual characteristics of the players, and the strengths and weaknesses that must be considered. We must always keep this report at hand during the preparation week. Besides, we must complete it with our team players’ contributions after each work session.
Second, we must prepare the game plan tailored to the specific characteristics of the microcycle. The preparation of the game includes four different steps that must be solved by the coach: analyse the game, create the game plan, write the game plan and, finally, control the psychological preparation.
Third, it is about correctly distributing the training contents during the week and practical preparation on the pitch or gym. The workouts should be prepared whenever possible before starting the week. This way, we can be sure that the preparation for the match is adequate. We can organise the training contents into three different blocks: (i) physical preparation, to maintain the team’s shape; (ii) technical-tactical preparation of the players and the team, to improve the players and (iii) the needs of the next game to get to the game in the best possible condition.
Fourth, we must prepare how we’re going to manage the match. Match management refers to how the coach should act at three different scenarios in matches to help players achieve their best performance: before the match, during the match and after the match..
Finally, it is time to evaluate what has happened and reflect on the consequences for the next game at the end of the match. The examination of what has occurred must be done in three different steps: assess the individual performance of the players, the collective performance of the team, and have that in mind for the following week preparation. In all cases, it must start from the game plan designed for that microcycle.
In short, it is about ensuring that the urgency of day-to-day does not lead us to be confused with what is most important. Good match preparation does not guarantee victory but it can help pave the way for it. Poor preparation for the next game is likely to lead to defeat.
1 Espar, X. (2007). Cinco simples pasos que garantizan una eficaz preparación del próximo partido. Comunicación Técnica Número 277. Real Federación Española de Balonmano.
2 Lago Peñas, C. y Seirul.lo, F. (2021). La dirección del entrenamiento y el partido en el Fútbol y los Deportes de Equipo. Próxima publicación
3Marí, P. (2017). Liderar equipos comprometidos. Barcelona: Plataforma Empresa.
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