As the NWSL preseason gets started across the country, many players will be entering at different levels of preparedness. There are quite a few players who play overseas during the NWSL’s offseason period, especially in Australia.
The Australian league just wrapped up a week ago, meaning that for players who played in the final, they have just a few days to regain freshness after a long flight home ahead of their return to their US based club.
These types of external circumstances require coaches to adjust their training to avoid too much accumulation of fatigue. For example, a player entering preseason at the conclusion of another season will be extremely fit, or able to complete many actions for 90 minutes.
What they will likely be lacking is freshness.
On the contrary, players who are coming into preseason after a 3 month offseason will be extremely fresh, but lacking fitness, as they will not have trained or played a competitive game for a long period of time.
Integrating players from both circumstances can seem tricky at first, but with proper planning, injuries and too much accumulation of fatigue can be avoided.
First, the coach must examine how many players are coming from a league that just finished. It would be wise to give these players a bit of a physical break to regain their freshness (around 5-7 days), especially if they have just had a 15+ hour flight and are adjusting to a new time zone.
The coach can begin to integrate these players slowly into training by using them as “neutral” or “target” players in training, so they only have to complete attacking actions, reducing their training load.
For the players who are entering preseason without much fitness, it can be tempting for the coach to do lots of “isolated fitness” early on.
The issue with this approach is that while players may become more “fit” in the running sense, they will not be improving their ability to communicate and perform football actions in the playing style that the coach is trying to implement.
They will also develop an accumulation of fatigue extremely quickly, as their body is being exposed to a new stressor. It is likely that they will report being more sore and more fatigued than the players coming from another league.
For these reasons, the best approach to preseason is a gradual one, where the intensity is slowly increased.
Couple this approach with an individualized plan for overseas players, and you will have your best XI ready and adjusted to their new playing style and teammates for their first match.