How to Manage High School + Club Workloads TOGETHER
It's February right now in North Carolina, which means high school soccer for girls has started (despite some school's seasons being pushed back by COVID).
Our club season is pretty much over with the exception of a few showcases that we are attending, so we are still training 2x per week and trying to manage players who usually attend club training AFTER already training with their high school.
This presents some unique challenges.
For starters, some high schools are not playing at all this season, so some players attend training feeling very fresh. On the other hand, some players come from school sessions where all they do is run sprints for 2 hours. Unsurprisingly, they arrive fatigued.
This presents a unique test for us as coaches to design training sessions that engage our players and help them to improve, while also being cognizant of players arriving in different physical and mental states, and having drastically different fitness levels.
Usually, features get added to SoccerPulse when I realize that I need them for the group that I'm working with (if I need them, there's a good chance another coach somewhere will also need them), which is why I am now using the training load (acute and chronic) of players to plan for the type of session we will perform.
Training load is calculated by taking the number of minutes trained and multiplying it by the RPE the player has entered for that session.
For example, a game where a player played 90 minutes and entered a 10 / 10 (max effort) for RPE would have a training load value of 900. Acute training load refers to the EWMA (exponentially weighted moving average) of the last 7 days, and chronic load refers to the EWMA of the last 28 days.
To get an idea for what players are doing on their own, they add all the training sessions and games for their high school season to SoccerPulse, and enter the RPE of those events when they complete them. I get notified on the app, and can see what their overall load is, as well as the ratio from chronic to acute.
Why does this ratio matter? If the ratio is greater than 1.3, it indicates the player may be doing too much, too soon. This could put them at a higher risk of picking up soft tissue or non-contact injuries, due to the build up of fatigue. If it is less than 0.8, it means the player is detraining and possibly losing fitness.
The sweet spot is between 0.8 and 1.3.
If you want to keep track of this type of data and you don't use SoccerPulse, you could always collect it in an excel spreadsheet and graph it. For the EWMA, you'll want to weight each day differently, as more recent days should have a higher weight than days that occurred further in the past.
With all this in mind, my training sessions during this period of time are never fitness oriented.
We also take the time to work on things that we may not have the ability to focus on when we are preparing for matches every weekend.
This can include passing and receiving long balls (MANY players struggle with this), heading ability (especially with my teams) or position specific actions.
If I have a player arriving to training who I know had an intense week of high school sessions, I tend to make them a neutral in games/possession exercises so that they are performing 50% of the total actions of other players (no defending or transition).
The challenge is engaging the players, still keeping the session fun, and not putting them in danger of picking up an unnecessary injury which could keep them out for an extended period of time.
As of right now, so far, so good (knock on wood!).