This is where it all begins. If the softball preparation phase is not done correctly it will effect the entire season. Your main competition phase will depend on the foundation work that is done here in the softball preparation phase. The physical, technical tactical and psychological factors of softball will be effected by the training done now.
The following are considerations when planning this phase
- physical training
- biomotor abilities for softball
- psychological skills
- solidify technical skills
- basic tactics and strategies
- theory and methodologies of softball
This phase will usually be 3-6 months long. Softball has a long preparation phase as most teams re convene not long after the final tournament of the season. In international softball, this phase may be shorter than for national level teams as they will attend tournaments during their annual plan rather than league games.
General Softball Preparation Phase (6-8 weeks)
This phase is exactly as it says…. for general preparation. As you can see it is set at the beginning of your yearly training plan and is where you will plan most of your physical training and technical skills. This is where the athletes are developing and solidifying their physical, mental and technical skills for competition as well as team building.
During the beginning of this phase, evaluations are done as part of the planning. Softball is a game of skills that do not necessarily require strength to perform technical skills as a sport like gymnastics does, however strength is critical for power and speed which is required for most all technical skills in softball.
General strength training, using circuit training is a good option for the beginning of this phase in preparation for maximum strength training of the prime movers of the softball.
Anatomical Adaptation, or, the physical training to prepare the body for the activities to come is critical for injury prevention. Muscle strength will improve faster than ligament and tendon strength so it is important to strengthen ligaments and tendons during this phase to withstand the strength training that will follow. As athletes improve their training year to year this phase will be shortened.
Technical / Tactical Skills
These skills need to be developed and new skills introduced during this sub-phase. Building on the previous season and evaluating new athletes will allow you to plan the practices that will most benefit the team. Use variety and be sure to change up the sessions to prevent boredom.
Introducing and rehearsing mental skills during this phase is advised as the stress levels should be minimal so the pressure to succeed will not inhibit learning.
Volume / Intensity Level
High intensity training should not exceed 30-40% during this sub phase. In order to maximize the benefits of training technical and tactical skills, and because the volumes of training might be higher for anatomical adaptation, it would only cause fatigue and be counter productive. It is not advisable to compete at this stage because the purpose is to develop rather than to test their skills and abilities.
Specific Softball Preparation Phase (3-5 weeks)
Progressive development occurs. New tactical strategies are acquired and solidified. Physical and mental skills are being maintained and evaluated as the quality of practice is more the focus. Volume may decrease as the intensity begins to increase in preparation for the competitive phase.
The Specific Preparation Phase is where the team will train for softball more specifically. Working more on power, speed and agility for example in your physical training. Your technical training will be maintained and your tactical training will be more of the focus as you approach the competition phase with exhibition games. Mental training will contain more game readiness and situation specific training.
Strength / Power
Strength and power are being developed in this sub-phase as they are critical for softball. Training only the prime movers that are used in softball skills are the focus, using movements as close to the skill execution as possible.
Technical / Tactical Skills
Perfecting technical skills under varying conditions is more advised here, while incorporating tactical elements. Introduce new tactics after basic fundamental ones are solidified. Resist the temptation to use all tactics at the same time. Exhibition games can be scheduled late in this sub phase to test the teams abilities as the competitive phase arrives.
More game like scenarios are used during this sub phase allowing athletes to perfect their Mental skills and strategies. This is an individual task as everyone will be effected by stimuli differently, so will need to learn how to devise strategies effectively. Record keeping is important for this element.
Volume / Intensity Levels
Training will begin to move more toward higher intensity and lower volume as preparations begin for competition.
This phase is where the team is preparing for competition. Game like situations should be incorporated to perfect technical and tactical softball skills under varying conditions.