Macrocycles are training periods that have a number of microcycles (weekly training plans) within them, usually 2-6. It is a way to divide up your season into more manageable time periods to ensure that all of the important components of softball are trained most effectively throughout the different training phases. A guideline for softball macrocycle durations might be the amount of time it takes to perfect a group of skills or strategys. In softball there are so many elements to the game that some groups and skills can be grouped together.
If there are exhibition games during a softball macrocycle, they should be scheduled for the end so that the data from the competition can be used in planning the next macrocycle. These exhibition game macrocycles should not be scheduled until the late preparation, pre competition phases.
A macrocycle in the preparation phase will be 4-6 weeks and during the competitive phase (season) 2-4 weeks. During the competitive phase it will be competitions and tournaments that will dictate the length of the macrocycles. In many sports it is the competitions that will determine the end of the macrocycle however in softball it would be tournaments as many teams will play 1-2 games per week and have tournaments on the weekend.
Microcycles that train complex skills requiring nervous system adaptation should be grouped together in a macrocycle that is shorter to prevent fatigue.
Building a Softball Macrocycle
Macrocycles are what microcycles are built out of. The following are factors to consider when building a macrocycle:
- the training phase
- the objectives of the macrocycle
- the performance objectives of the season
- the competition schedule
The Preparation Phase
This phase is for laying the foundation for the training to come. Introducing and solidifying skills and preparing the body through anatomical adaptation. Macrocycles would be 4-6 weeks and will include regeneration microcycles at the end to recover from high intensity training that might also occur. If Shock microcycles are used it would be during this part of the season when the stress of competition is not present.
Be sure to monitor athletes physiological and psychological reactions to shock training or successive high intensity softball microcycles to prevent fatigue or over training.
The Competitive Phase
This is where the competitive schedule will dictate the number and length of the macrocycles. The training will be specific and the loading patterns will vary regularly. In softball the load variations will take place within the microcycles due to the weekly game schedules. Tournaments should be scheduled at the end of a macrocycle to plan for the next one.
When a team needs to prepare for state/provincial championships and then National championships this will also have an effect on the macrocycle schedules during the competitive phase. There should be no competitions planned between these two competitions as the time should be used for regenerating and refining technical, tactical and psychological skills, and even environmental adaptations as the competition may be in another time zone. Peaking and supercompensation is the goal here.
An unloading macrocycle that re-creates conditions of the final event should only last 2 weeks and be used to remove fatigue and practice skills stress free.
The Transition Phase
Where physical training gains are maintained and the athlete enjoys other activities while the coach plans the following season.