Photo: Kyle McCarthy
(Editor’s Note: Our series of posts from Reading United and Villanova defender Kyle McCarthy continues as he gives an inside look at training in the lead-up to gameday on one of the top Premier Development League teams in the country.)
Last week I covered the events of a typical gameday experience, so it’s only fair that I mention the hard work and effort that we go through building up to that moment. Here’s an inside look at our four-day training curriculum leading up to a match.
The first practice after a game is always the toughest. Thanks to the day of rest we usually receive following a game, our legs have the chance to recover and are ready to be pushed again the following day. Thus, we almost always have a hard, physically demanding training session to kick off our week. But instead of running fitness drills, we do everything on the ball. Exhausting technical drills, and fast-paced, intense small-sided games make up the majority of the session, which usually lasts just over an hour.
The second day of practice is almost entirely devoted to technical training. The warm-up consists of quick, one and two touch drills meant to sharpen our feet and get us to think faster on the ball. Next we transition into some variation of a technical passing exercise that challenges our accuracy and also continues to work on our touch. Then, to finish up practice, we open it up and play some sort of possession drill with difficult restrictions put in place.
The third day is when we put all our technical training to use. The entire practice is spent playing small-sided or full-sided games to goal. For a lot of players, this is the most important practice of the week. As I have mentioned before, we have over 30 players on our roster, but only 18 make the game-day squad. Thus, this practice provides the perfect opportunity to show the staff what you can offer in a game-like environment and hopefully secure a place in the squad. Performing in this practice has become increasingly crucial as the season wears on. Many players are beginning to return to school or drop out for other reasons, opening up slots and offering the remaining players more exposure. The coaching staff may also begin to look for solutions to problems that may have arisen in recent games.
The last practice before a game is light and focused on our tactical approach for the match. We spend the first half of the session going through a much less intense version of the technical work we do during the second day. The second half of practice is mostly a full-sided game environment meant to help us work on our shape and run through scenarios we might find the next day.
After practice, we then designate our “Sh*t Player of the Week.” In theory, the Sh*t Player of the Week is a tradition where a particularly poor performing player is fairly voted upon and put in charge of equipment for the next week. In practice, the Sh*t Player of the Week has become a convenient avenue for humorous, personal vendettas to be settled by a bandwagon voting system. After, we make sure to get a good stretch before going home and then wait for the squad to be put out later in the evening.
It’s a demanding week, but if you work hard and focus, there are many rewards.