Long time, no see. I hope everyone is staying safe and getting ready for (hopefully) their fall seasons.
At SoccerPulse, we're trying to facilitate a safe return to sport for clubs and colleges with the implementation of a symptom questionnaire on the SoccerPulse wellness report, which will alert coaches if a player indicates they have a symptom. This, along with proper return to play protocol should help teams be proactive instead of reactive.
It can be tough to prepare for a season when you're not sure if it will happen or not, so I've tried to take the approach of being flexible, understanding what I can control as a coach, and making the most of the opportunity.
That's where this blog comes in.
I wanted to give coaches a detailed idea of what Game Model Testing is, how to implement it, and what the benefits of doing so are.
First off, in order to Game Model Test, you'll need a Game Model.
Meaning... how do you want your team to play the game?
This can be as simple as a style of play in each phase of the game (attacking, defending, defensive transition, and attacking transition) or as detailed as a style of play for each third of the field AND each phase.
In my teams, I typically play a style that involves possession when attacking, high pressing when defending, counter pressing when in defensive transition, and counter attacking when in attacking transition.
The objective of Game Model Testing is to see how long my team can maintain OUR style of play before the tempo drops.
We will call this our zero point.
This is the maximum amount of time our team can play our style.
Once I have that information, I can plan the training loads for the rest of the season accordingly.
If you want more background on Game Model Testing before reading how to conduct the test, I recommend reading this blog here: The Best Fitness Test is The Game
THE SET UP
The set up is fairly simple. If you have enough players to play 11v11... perfect! You'll need a full size field and 2 goals.
If you have more than 22 players, there are some options which we will discuss later.
If you have less than 22 players, you'll want to play 10v10, 9v9, or 8v8. If you have less that, hang tight, as we'll discuss other possible solutions.
Once you have your numbers, teams and pitch dimensions, you'll want to scatter the balls around the outside of the pitch evenly.
This is to keep the tempo high and to help us avoid long breaks between play.
This is crucial to finding an actual zero point.
If we are playing 8v8, 9v9, 10v10 or 11v11, we'll play 10 minute games with 2 minutes rest between games.
To encourage players to play our style of play (possession + high press), goals will count for 2 if they come from a string of 8 passes or more (encourage possession),
if they win the ball back in the attacking third and score (encourage high pressing).
Now for the fun part!
Once the test starts, we aren't going to stop it FOR ANY REASON! This means all coaching points must be in the run of play or to players away from the ball.
We don't want to stop the play because that will add an additional rest period and hinder our ability to find the zero point.
In terms of coaching, the most effective way to push the tempo is to only coach when the players are tired.
How can we tell if they are tired? If they are walking instead of pressing, or walking instead of moving to support the ball.
We will play as many sets of 10 minutes as we can before the majority of the team is walking.
The test is over when the majority of the team is walking, instead of performing the proper action.
Write down the minute of the game that you stopped the test in!
Let's say our team was able to play 10 minutes at a high tempo, but the majority of the team started walking around minute 8 of the 2nd game. It's safe to say that our team is "fit" for 18 minutes (8 + 10 from first game).
The following week when we "test" again, we will attempt to push the team to minute 19 and so on for the duration of the season.
This is called progressive overload, and it allows us to push our team to become "fitter" as the season goes on.
Knowing our zero point also allows us to plan our "download" days... aka, the days when we don't want to overload our players.
This could be because we have a game coming up, or just had a big tournament and we don't want to overload them.
If we play 50% of our "overload" time with them (in the example above, this would be 2 games of 4.5 minutes, because 2x4.5 = 9 which is 50% of 18 minutes), we know for a fact that we won't be overloading them on the wrong day.
We want to perform these overload days on a Wednesday.
Why? Because usually, Wednesday is +3 days from match-day on a Saturday and +3 days from the prior game on Saturday.
This allows for maximum recovery between games AND let's us know that our players are feeling fresh when performing the test.
What are the advantages to performing game model tests through out the season?
The biggest and most obvious is repeatability. This type of test can easily be repeated throughout the season and gives us an opportunity to compare numbers from week 1 to the end of the season.
It also means we don't ever need to waste a session performing a max out aerobic test like the YoYo (read my blog on why we should do away with that test for team sports).
What are the disadvantages to performing game model tests?
For starters, if your team doesn't understand your game model yet or if you have a large gap in quality between the top of your squad and the bottom, it can be difficult to perform this test at a high enough level.
You might also be limited by # of players, field space etc.
HOW TO ADAPT
If you don't have enough players to play 8v8 - 11v11, here's how you can make it work.
You can perform the same test but with 7v7 or 6v6. In that case, you should reduce the duration of the games to 5 minutes, as 7v7 games are more intense than 11v11 and as a result will not be able to be played for as long.
If you have more than 22 players and want to play 11v11, you can have the players who are "subs" performing a tempo run on the outside of the field using the lines of the field.
This is very similar to the fitness they would have been performing on the field. See diagram below
Hopefully this blog was helpful for you and you are able to implement this type of test with your team! If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Fingers crossed for a safe return to sports in the fall!