Ideally, the human body needs 48 hours of recovery time after a particularly strenuous training session or match. Of course, that’s just not possible for professional athletes. But if you want your players to be fired up and energised on matchdays, you’ll need to give them a little recovery time the day before. 

Easier said than done, right? 

Not necessarily. After all, professional football clubs have perfected the art of pre-matchday training sessions. But it takes planning and careful management of each player’s specific needs. 

Plan the Week’s Training in Advance

Ideally, the day after every match should be a rest day. So start the training week gradually and aim to peak in terms of rigorousness during the middle of the week. 

The day before a match should include a little light training and stretching. Cooling down sessions help your players’ bodies to recover. Hopefully, the bulk of the fitness and conditioning training will have already been done for the week. 

The day before a match should be utilised for tactics and technique. Nothing you can do a few hours before a match will make any player fitter or more prepared. But if you overwork them, you could leave them lacking energy and suffering from muscular aches and pains. 

Training Drills

The focuses of your training the day before a big game should be recovery, stretching and light cardio. Each coach has their own approach to this, but potential drills include:

  • Non-contact small-sided games
  • Foot volleyball
  • Gentle jogging
  • Time with physios
  • Basic yoga
  • Warm-ups
  • Passing drills
  • Shooting drills
  • Tactical drills

The idea is to keep the fitness and conditioning work to a minimum. A lot of coaches restrict activity to tactical and motivational work the day before a match, but this depends on how well players have trained through the week. 

Players should feel refreshed and motivated after a pre-matchday training session. 

Get the Players Eating Well

The day before a big match isn’t the time to be indulging in sweet treats and fatty foods. Lean meat, fresh vegetables and high-quality carbohydrates such as whole grains will provide the fuel your players need to perform well the next day. 

While you can’t control what your players eat at home, speak with them as a group about your expectations. Give them some guidance on what to eat the evening and morning before a match. 

Give a Motivational Team Talk

The day before a match isn’t the time to rake over the errors of previous games — that should be done during the immediate aftermath. 

Gather your players together and create a vision for tomorrow’s game. Accentuate the positive, and tell a story of how and why you’re going to win. This is called positive visualization, and it’s a branch of sports psychology used by professional football clubs around the world.

Send the Players on Their Way with Advice

Every football coach in the world faces the same issue: How can you control what the players do the night before a big game? And unless you’re a professional coach who makes your players stay in a hotel overnight, the answer is ‘very little’.

This is why it’s vital to have a healthy and trusting relationship with your players. Promoting the idea of personal responsibility during a pre-matchday training session is vital. So, after your tactics team talk, set the rules and expectations for the night and morning before the game. 

  • Get to bed early — A player needs a minimum of seven hours of sleep to perform at their best the next day.
  • Drink lots of water — Players should sip water continually the night and morning before a match. 
  • Eat well — Players should avoid saturated fats, processed sugar and convenience foods during the 24 hours before kick-off.
  • Eat a good breakfast – Tell your players to eat a light breakfast rich in ‘good’ carbohydrates and protein. 
  • Eat a carb-rich meal four hours before kick-off — Players should have empty stomachs when the match begins.

So the basic thrust of your pre-matchday football training sessions should be recovery and preparation. If you’ve done the hard work earlier in the week, you players should be in great condition and raring to go when the ref blows the whistle for kick-off.