Coaches’ planning in elite performance sports involves description, forecasting, organisation, design, and assessment of all training stimuli. It is about achieving the best possible fitness state in order to help the athlete succeed in the competition. However, while in individual sports this bioenergetic or technical-tactical state should be as high as possible, this is not the case in team sports. There are many more elements to take into account.
According to Seirul·lo’s proposal1,2,3, a team sports player’s fitness should be understood from different perspectives:
From the player’s individual perspective
An athlete’s fitness is achieved through continuous self-optimisation of all systems (coordinative, cognitive, conditional, biological, socio-affective, mental, and emotional-volitional) 4,5 that define each person and that is manifested in the constant improvement of their performance within the team. To achieve this state, it is essential to recognise the systems to work on preferentially in each area and for each player—specific position, talent, personal needs of each athlete, etc. In addition, training must include the best combination aimed at developing both the athlete’s needs according to their style of play and those non-preferred aspects that are also very relevant to build the best version of each athlete. Under such customised preparation, it is crucial to understand which moment of their sporting life each player is at. When an athlete starts out, their sporting life, it is inconsistent and irregular in regard to their performance. Throughout their sporting career, these moments will temporarily stabilise, making their performance more regular and constant. The athlete’s maturity can be noticed when his performance can adapt to the level that the competition requires. Therefore, from the player’s perspective, fitness is understood as the confluence of certain optimisation states of the individual’s systems involved at each moment of their sporting life.
In regard to opponents
In team sports, it is common to compete against 25-35 different teams during the season. Each player’s level has to do with the success they achieve in specific actions during the game. When two players face each other at similar moments of their sporting life, the one who is more talented or has had better experiences and stimuli in their training program will have a better chance of winning. The face-off between players who are at different moments in their sporting life tends to benefit the athlete who is at a more advanced stage. That is why experienced or senior players can overcome, being far from their best individual fitness, against players who are still in a learning phase. It is very important for the coach to know the level of the opposing team’s players in order to properly manage the planning of the training sessions as well as preparing game strategies that can undermine the opponent’s weaknesses.
In regard to the teammates
The coach should know the individual minimum and maximum requirements necessary for designing the style of play, depending on specific positions and each athlete. It is high priority for the coach to achieve homogeneity in the fitness of all the squad. It is about achieving the necessary and specific interactions among the different athletes so as to translate it into the team’s style of play. Such fitness might not be the best for all individuals, but it has to be the necessary one in order to collaborate individually in the realisation of the collective tactical systems. Thus, it is possible for an individual player with a low fitness state to fulfil specific roles in a particular position which is required at that moment. The evaluation of that athlete can be seen as being in optimal form, but only to perform certain specific functions in a specific tactical position. Once an athlete is about to get to their best individual fitness performance, they must modify their collective role in regard to their teammates. The coach’s job is to obtain the best collective performance out of the inter-individual fitness state of the players at any given time.
In regard to the different season stages
In team sports, the season lasts between 9 and 10 months with more or less relevant moments in the competition calendar. The coach needs to understand the different perspectives on fitness and team sports in order to manage the different stages of the season in the best possible manner. Therefore, it might be possible for a high-performance team to successfully play league games, preliminary stages of international championships and other official competitions with the best formed and trained players with a low individual fitness state, and the youngest ones in a perfect fitness state. Whenever it is needed to achieve an optimal fitness state for the whole team, a correct timing of these phases of the season can be defined at a later stage to achieve this goal. The coach’s knowledge about their own team, the opponents, and the type of competition they are playing will determine the planning to be proposed throughout the season.
Carlos Lago Peñas
1 Seirul·lo Vargas, F. (2001). Entrevista de Metodología y Planificación. Training Fútbol. 65: 8-17.
2 Seirul·lo, F. (2009). Una línea de trabajo distinta. Revista de Entrenamiento Deportivo, 23(4): 13-18.
3 Seirul·lo Vargas, F. (1993). Preparación física aplicada a los deportes de equipo: balonmano. Cuadernos Técnico-Pedagógicos de INEF de Galicia nº 7.
4 Seirul·lo, F. (1998). Valores educativos del deporte en D. Blázquez (ed): La iniciación deportiva y el deporte escolar (2ª edición), pp. 61-75, Barcelona: INDE.
5 Seirul·lo, F. (2010). Estructura sociafectiva. Documento INEFC – Barcelona. Retrieved from: http://www.motricidadhumana.com/estructura_socioafectiva_doc_seirul_lo_Outline_drn.pdf