What exactly is pre-season and what happens?

With the 2022/23 Bundesliga campaign due to start on August 5, clubs across Germany are starting to round up their players to begin their pre-season preparations. But why do they need so much time? And what is really happening?

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The quick and simple answer is that pre-season is about getting players fit and ready in time for their first competitive game. In reality, however, there are a number of moving parts to take into account: new players arrive, others leave, some may be injured, or perhaps there is a new coach with new tactics to be implemented.

So the first question is when to start? Players obviously need time for their bodies to recover after a long and arduous season. RB Leipzig, for example, have played more competitive games in 2021/22 than any other German side (54), the last of which was the triumphant DFB Cup final against Freiburg on May 21.

The new campaign starts earlier than usual this year due to the reshuffle of the schedule with the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar in November leaving Domenico Tedesco’s side with just nine weeks of summer vacation.

look: What the first day of the 2022/23 Bundesliga season looks like

It may seem like a lot, but between giving players time off, pacing training to avoid muscle injuries, attending training camps (more on that later) and playing in friendlies, it all goes by quickly.

“Each club must find a pragmatic solution that works for them,” explained Thomas Tuchel during his time at the Mainz hotseat. “If you start too early, you have to be careful not to lose your momentum. You can’t hold that kind of tension for too long.

Bochum and Union Berlin are the first clubs to begin preparations this year, with both coming together on Monday June 20. Bayern Munich will be the last to start again, with Julian Nagelsmann’s charges set for a return on July 8.

But whenever it happens, the first item on every club’s agenda is a lactate test.

Players are usually asked to rest completely for a week to 10 days at the end of a season, before following a personalized training program that takes into account their age, position, injury history and physical condition. current.

The lactate test is then used as a baseline to determine their condition upon their return. Players typically take laps around a track before getting their earlobe pricked for a drop of blood. They then continue running at a faster pace for a few laps, give another blood sample, and repeat the process several times.

“From these drops of blood you can see the concentration of lactate in the blood,” said Professor Tim Meyer, a German national team doctor since 2001.

“When we have the lactate values, we can put them on a graph…and that helps us determine performance diagnostics. The graphs also show different thresholds, which can give recommendations for training… so this way you can determine what heart rate or speed players need in different training areas.

Mark Uth underwent an acid lactate test during pre-season training with Cologne last year. – Herbert Bucco via www.imago-images.de/imagoimages/Herbert Bucco

All of this brings us to training camps. “The preparation time you have in pre-season is one of the most important periods you have as a coach,” said Markus Weinzierl, who left as Augsburg boss at the end of 2021/22.

Weinzierl, like the majority of coaches, is a fan of taking his team for a week or so. “You have your players and staff together 24 hours a day in training camps,” the 47-year-old explained.

“You can use that time intensively to talk to the players about various things, you can do video analysis, you can onboard new players and build a sense of unity in the squad.”

The location of team camps is determined by a number of factors: most opt ​​for warm weather training or a combination of training in the sun and at altitude in the mountains to help players get in shape faster . There may also be commercial reasons at play, with clubs contractually obligated to visit certain locations to fulfill their responsibilities with partners and sponsors. Switzerland, Austria and Spain are popular destinations for top German teams, as are the United States, China and Japan.

Former Augsburg head coach Markus Weinzierl was an active participant in his side’s training camp in Austria last year. – Klaus Rainer Krieger via www.imago-images.de/imagoimages/Krieger

Regardless of location, however, it’s safe to say that most gamers generally don’t relish the task of getting back to peak physical shape.

“It’s getting harder and harder every day,” former Bayern and Werder Bremen defender Valerien Ismael once said. Spiegel. “But this is where you lay the foundation for the physical condition you will have throughout the season.”

As such, players are aware that this is a necessary part of their job description. “If you come back from your vacation in bad shape, you stand out in a negative way,” Ismael continued.

“That means everyone has to carry you and you slow down the performance of the whole team. An unfit player suffers a lot in training camps. And if you’re not in good shape, you get injured more easily. If you are injured, you miss friendlies and then someone else takes your place in the team.

Valérien Ismael in Bayern training in 2006. -Andreas Rentz/Bongarts/Getty Images

However, Weinzierl says that from a manager’s point of view, friendlies are not so important: “The intensity of training is the deciding factor. It doesn’t matter if you are the first or the last in the exercises. You shouldn’t give too much importance to friendlies or results in pre-season – I’ve seen a lot of teams that don’t give their all, for various reasons.

“Nobody wants to get injured or the players are tired after intense training sessions. I think a week of intensive training focused on your tactics is more useful than half-hearted friendlies.

Upon returning to Germany from the camps, the focus remains on developing physical fitness and endurance, while performing media duties – granting interview requests and having photos and video footage taken. which will be used by TV broadcasters as well as print and online media throughout the season.

look: From the archive – the making of Dortmund Media Day 2019

“Two weeks before matchday one, you can usually play flat out for 60 or 70 minutes,” Ismael added. “During the last week of pre-season, you are at around 80% of your maximum performance level. You recover the remaining 20% ​​over the matches once the season has started.

Spare a thought, then, for Manuel Neuer, Marco Reus, Christopher Nkunku and Co. over the coming days and weeks as they put in the hard works in preparation for enjoying a successful Bundesliga campaign in 2022/23.

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