Young children (up to the age of eight) hardly need to warm up at all – some jogging, swinging of the arms, twists of the hips or other movements to loosen up will suffice.
Older children need some easy stretches interspersed by some gentle jogging to warm their muscles and raise their heart rate.
Note: It is important to establish good training habits as soon as possible. Therefore, emphasis should be placed upon developing a consistent routine. Don’t have a warm up one week but drop it the next because you’re a bit short of time!
Stretching exercises at any age can be harmful if the muscles are cold so start your warm up with some gentle jogging (with or without a football) before moving onto appropriate stretching exercises.
Try one or more of these quick and simple games to get your kids focused and ready to work.
This is a good warm-up exercise that warms up the brain as well as the feet. Having tried it out on my team you soon find out who can think quickly – and also who knows their left from their right!
Make a circle with markers – one for each player.
If you have a large number of players, make two (or three) circles.
The size of the circle will depend on the age of your team and how much of a work-out you want to give them – but even a small circle is good enough if you do the drill at pace.
Couldn’t be simpler – you just shout out instructions!
“3 right, 1 left”
“2 right, centre, 1 left”
(Centre means run to the middle of the circle AND BACK)
The drill can be done with or without a ball.
Specify the type of steps they have to use between each marker, i.e., sidesteps or turn and run.
Have them sit down after each instruction – then they get to practice getting on their feet quickly (or get trampled!)
Points to Watch
Make sure your kids are on their toes ready to move – no standing flat-footed.
Every step touch the ball
Players dribble a football slowly in a defined area. Then tell them to try to touch the football with every step they take – (not as easy as it sounds!). On the command ‘Go’, the players must leave their ball and find another. Let them try this a few times then take one or two balls away. The players who end up without a ball have to run a lap of the activity area.
Spiders and bugs
Mark three lines 20 yards long and fifteen yards apart as shown by the x’s in the diagram below.
Divide your children into two equal teams. Each team should stand along side the centre line about two yards apart and all facing forwards. Name one team Spiders (the ‘S’ in the diagram above) and one team Bugs (the ‘B’s). When you call ‘Spiders’! or ‘Bugs’! that team has to sprint for the end line nearest them. The other team tries to tag them. Anyone who is tagged joins the other team. Continue until there are only a couple of children left who haven’t been tagged. Don’t carry on until they are all exhausted!).
Pass and follow
A player in the centre of the circle passes to a player standing on the outside of the circle. She follows her pass and exchanges places with the player she passed to. That player then dribbles into the centre of the circle and passes to another player on the outside. As the players improve, put another ball into play and/or impose restrictions (one-touch play, alternate side-of-the-foot and lofted passes, etc).
You could also try putting half the players on the outside of the circle and half on the inside. The players on the inside look to the players on the outside for a thrown-in ball, receive it and one-touch it back (vary the service so that the ball is thrown to feet, to thigh, to chest, to head).
The Zipper Drill
This drill is very good for observation and co-ordination.
Grid can be determined by the age of the players. 20yds x 20yds is the normal.
Divide team into two groups here blues and greens. Players start on cone A and run down to cone B doing whatever is asked of them. When they pass cone B they run diagonally to the opposite corner and cross the other group, they now start from cone A again.
- Players bump into each other in the middle and sprint to A
- Turn before the Zip
- Introduce a ball.
- Exercises (from A to B)
- Slow Jogging.
- Stop, turn.
- Skipping Sideways.
- Skipping Backwards.
- Faster Jogging
- Striding Out.
- Slight changes of direction. Three steps to the right then three steps to the left.
- High Knees.
- Heel Flicks.
- Jump and Head.
- Turn and Sprint.
- Backing Off.
Players line up behind each other in a straight line with cones ten yards away on their left and right. The coach stands opposite them and shouts instructions. The players run to the line of cones indicated by the coach.
- Dribble with ball (leave on line or take back).
- Run with ball in hands (leave on line or take back).
Players can react from:
- Shouting colours (blue is left, green is right).
- Numbers odd numbers and even numbers.
Grid is 30 x 30 yards, you can even use the centre circle. Use 10+ players.
Three players are in the middle of a 30 x 30 yard grid. The remaining players make a circle around the grid. Five of these players each have a ball.
Each player in the middle moves to a player with a ball, receives it, turns and switches it to a team mate who does not have a ball. Play continues in this fashion for a designated period.
Allow two touches for the players in the middle.
The switched ball has to be chipped in the air.
Add a defender to mark players in the middle.
Rotate middle and circle players.
Two final words about warm ups – NO LAPS!
I cringe whenever I see a coach watching her children run round and round the field. Why?
Because I know that I’m watching a coach who doesn’t know what she is going to do next – the children are running laps so that she can have a think.
Some coaches may say “Yes, but I make them dribble while they run the lap.”
Is this (as the Dutch would say) a ‘soccer like’ activity? No. Is it a situation that children are likely to encounter during a match? No, it’s not.
And don’t forget the cool down!