Preseason that isnt Preseason

Lets talk pre season - preseason is often a 8 week period of hard work, players fear pre season, but should it be that way? I dont think so. Preseason should be about fitness, burning off those excesses of the summer - but should it be all about fitness, fitness and more fitness?

Dont get me wrong I am a big supporter of fitness, this is not a post about not working hard. This preseason I have tried to implement a new approach called "secret fitness". I wanted to challenge myself and the players that I coach to undertake their fitness but move away from the normal (run ways, circuits and suicides) that are often used. Previous mistakes I have made was overtraining the players which lead to injuries further into the season, not introducing the ball until 6 weeks in and using questionable techniques that had no real measurable tools. This was my doing at a previous club.

So this is how I started, I mind mapped what I wanted the players to look like at the end of the preseason and the end of the entire season, I used CARDS (See RFU and Russell Earnshaw for this inspirational approach) to really challenge the coaching approach. We wanted to really encourage the players to take ownership of their performance and we decided on a set of "skills" that they wanted to improve on.

We use a Games for Understanding approach (G4U) with constraints to really challenge them.

So once we decided the skills and what we wanted the players to look like we decided to develop the concept of "secret fitness". What would this look like? Basically lots of chaos related high intensity games, not just games of Rugby - but lots and lots of different games. We saw a football game called three sided football and developed this into what we called Hexagon touch.
This really challenge the players and instead of player football we played touch, the players created the rules once we had set out some basic ones. They came up with some crackers. 

Ok ok I can hear you all saying but how is that "secret fitness" we added in when you make a tackle you must retreat to your tryline, this created two things: 1, space and 2 "secret fitness". The players loved it, it challenged them to think quickly and make decisions under pressure, in a purposeful context and whilst fatiguing. 

Whilst this was going on we started to add in some constraints:
I challenge you to make 10 tackles in 4mins
How many different ways can you show me that you can go forwards in the next 5 mins.
Plus many more! 

This is well and good I hear you say, but is this "Improvement" measurable? well we come across the Bronco test, we have record the scores for the whole pre season - bear in mind we are an amateur team, every player has managed to beat their times consistently. Apart from the bank holiday weekend! 

Our team focus was split between attack and defence, then we have 3 weeks to knit it all together, which also runs alongside our 3 pre season games. 

What we have also been doing is filming the training sessions and sharing them with the players.

So far, we have seen improvements, at the end of sessions we try to get the players to vote for three things:
Attacking moment of the session
Defence moment of the session 
Best moment overall of the session

So there you go, no circuits - secret fitness and loads of games! our first game is tomorrow, I cant wait to see how may different strands of CARDS the players can show me and the coaching team! 

Until next time!