The right way to warm up and cool down

dyamic stretching

Most coaches have changed with the times in regards to stretching players in training. For years, players would do a series of static stretches first and then go into their training regime. Then the idea of getting the players muscles warm first, stop and perform a series of static stretches, get the players back to running again only to stop and stretch another muscle group.

For the youngest ages, stretching is not important. For the older age groups coaches should incorporate some dynamic stretching along with setting a tone or a “sneak preview” for what the session is going to be about.

Warm up

Dynamic or Functional Stretching is warming up the muscles specifically for the movements that will be used in the activities of the training session. It is the type of stretching that runners will often use before a race.

Dynamic Stretching

dyamic stretchingPlayers partner up. While one player is dribbling a football around the area, their partner is performing a functional stretching exercise like some mentioned above. Players switch after thirty seconds.

Each Functional exercise should be performed over a 15-20 yard area with a walking or jogging recovery.

Here are just some of the Functional Stretching exercises you can incorporate into your warm-up:

• Lunge Walk-Loosens up the hips. Lunge walk is when you take large steps keeping the chest up, looking straight ahead and moving the arms and legs together.

• High Knees-For hip flexor and ankle strength. Extend up to the toes and lift each thigh to a parallel position with the ground as you move forward.

• Calf Walk-For lower limb strength and Achilles flexibility. Extend the ankle on each step will warm up the calf muscles and Achilles ten don s.

• Sideways running-For lower limb strength, agility and flexibility.

• Backwards skipping-Same as above and works on strengthening quads and calf muscles.

Cool down

This should be done AFTER the training session in order to help speed up the recovery process. This is the cooling down stage. Cooling down are easy movements, light running, and more stretching.

The cooling down stage of training is something that all coaches need to include as part of their training session.

from Indiana Youth Soccer

Plyometrics for youth soccer coaches


Plyometrics are jumps or combinations of jumps that produce quick, powerful movement using a stretch reflex. A stretch reflex occurs when a muscle lengthens (stretches) and then immediately shortens – the reflex action occurs when the muscle changes from the lengthening to the shortening action. These drills are a specific training mode for soccer because the movements replicate the game’s mixture of vertical and horizontal acceleration against the ground and the triple extension of the ankle, knee, and hip joints.

In plain English, the muscle is stretched (i.e. loaded) before it is contracted. A good example is push-ups with a clap in-between each push-up. The muscles (pectorals in this case) is elongated and loaded by the downward force of the body, then immediately the player must contract the muscle to push themselves back up. Plyometrics are very good for enhancing power, speed, and agility for players.


The basis for lower body plyometric drills are an attempt to replicate playing movements, such as jumping, bounding, pushing off and changing direction. The movements are meant to be exaggerated and powered, such as:

• Over sized strides are used in the running action with extra time spent in the air.

• Multiple jumps over a series of obstacles like hurdles of footballs to improve power for sprinting or jumping events.

• Standing based jumps performed on the spot (low intensity) – Tuck Jumps, Split Jumps

• Jumps from standing (low-medium intensity) – Standing long jump, Standing hop, standing jump for height

• Multiple jumps from standing (medium intensity) – bounds, bunny hops, doublefooted jumps over discs, cones or footballs.


1. Jump forward over two discs on top line, jump back one in the middle channel

2. Jump forward over two discs on bottom line, jump back one in the middle channel

3. Repeat

4. Use soft discs – safety

5. Vary the distance to suit age and fitness of the players

6. Keep both feet together.

7. Aim for height – exaggerate the jumping action.

8. Aim for quality, not speed

9. Keep the head and body pointing forward at all times

10. Pause briefly on the ground between humps

11. Progress to hopping, using the right, then the left leg


1. To improve leg strength

2. To improve mobility

3. Improve bounding and jumping for the ball

4. Develop good balance

5. Improve agility

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Soccer agility drills


Use these simple football (soccer) agility drills to improve your balance, body control, foot speed and co-ordination.

Like speed drills, agility drills should not be physically exhausting…

A slow jog or walk between each drill should allow complete recovery. The emphasis must be on quality and form.

Because these soccer agility drills are not physically demanding, you can perform them any time during the week and on any day. One quick tip however…

Many coaches like to get all the intense physical training out of the way before move on to (more enjoyable?) skill practise. The problem is skills need to be performed with near perfect form. Practise does NOT make perfect – it makes permanent. So rehearse getting it right!

With that in mind I would perform soccer agility drills and skill work after the warm up before moving into more enervating, fitness drills. A typical agility session could consist of 3-5 sets of 10 repetitions in total (a repetition being one drill).

weaveWeave In – Weave Out
1. Place 4 markers out in a straight line approximately 3 yards apart.
2. In between each set of markers place another marker only 3 yards to the left. (see diagram right)
3. Sprint from one marker to the next bending down to touch each one with your hand.
4. The emphasis is on taking quick side steps, rather than turning to face the marker and sprinting forward – that takes more time (which don’t have in a game).
2. Follow the Leader

1. Mark out a large area – 20 yards by 20 yards for example.
2. Pair up with a team mate and have them run randomly within the area.
3. Try to maintain 2 yards distance from them at all times. Your team mate should be changing direction and pace constantly.
3. Box Drill

1. Use 4 cones or markers to mark out a square approximately 5yards by 5yards.
2. Place a cone in the centre of the square. This is your starting position.
3. Give each corner a number and remember it! Have a team mate (or your coach) call numbers at random.
4. Sprint to the corner shouted and return to the middle.

mini shuttle4. Mini Shuttle

1. Place 2 markers 20 yards apart. Place marker in the middle only 3 yards to the side. (see diagram left)
2. Starting from the middle marker sprint to one end (10 yards), turn and immediately sprint to the other end (20 yards) and then back to the start (10 yards).
3. Turn on a different foot at each marker and try to touch the ground with your hand.

5. Super Shuttle

super shuttle1. Set a series of cones out in a cross formation. (see diagram)
2. Run backwards to the centre cone, side step to the right cone (or your left if you are performing the drill), side step back to the centre cone still facing the same way.
3. At the centre cone turn and sprint forward to the end cone. Now run back to the centre cone, side step to the left, side step back to the centre, then turn and sprint back to the start.
4. Phew! Sounds complicated – it’s not – the diagram explains it quicker than I can!

6. Slalom
1. Place 10 shuttles in a line 5 yards apart.
2. Weave in and out as fast as possible and walk back to the start.
3. This exercise is often performed much more slowly with a ball. The goal here is to develop speed of leg movement so no ball is used.

Use the soccer agility drills above as they are or adapt them to fit your individual or team’s needs.

Swedish handball

Minutes: 5-30 Players: 6-20 Ages: 7-99


1. Movement, warm up. 2. Teach pass and move concept. 3. Teach importance of passing. 4. Teach importance of moving into space. 5. Improve teamwork. 6. If nothing else, the kids love this game–it can be exciting and fun.



This is a team game. 3v3 4v4, 5v5 etc. Set up a goal at each end of the field. Goal can be a small (5×5) square or a circle or triangle–does not matter, just a dedicated area where the ball can be placed. Field size varies depending on number of players, for 5v5 I would suggest 40 by 30.


The aim of the game is to pass the football among your team WITH HANDS, keeping possession and working up the field in order to score a point. Each team scores by placing the ball (or throwing the ball down) in their opponents goal.

To pass the ball you must use TWO hands (just underarm, or for older kids overarm as well helps with throw in practice). Before passing to a team mate you must touch the ball on the ground–then pass. Once the player receives the ball they cannot run, they are frozen (or can just take one step) and then must pass to a team mate (you can use your judgement depending on kids, maybe have 1-2 or 3 steps, can enforce time, i.e.. must pass within 5 seconds). The opposing team can only intercept between passes–they cannot grab the ball out of players hands. If the ball goes out of grid award throw in to opposing team.

Team scores if they place or throw the ball down into the opposing goal. You may need to enforce a 1 or 2 defender rule, otherwise defending players tend to just crowd around the goal area.

In have been coaching in the US now for a few weeks (I am a UK FA coach) and the kids love this game and it is truly amazing to see how they spread out and pass and support. I have used this game as a great way to give kids a practical example of how to play “give and go” soccer.

Adaptations or Progressions.

Spike Ball — one team plays Swedish Handball and tries to spike the ball used by the other team who are trying to make 10 consecutive passes.

1, 2 or 3 touch small sided football.

Head Ball

Same as Swedish handball–adapt rules so that every second pass is a header and that opposition cannot gain possession from a header

Ball control warm ups

ball control

Simultaneous passing

ball control

Players stand apart facing each other with a football at the players right foot

Each player simultaneously passes to the other players left foot

Each player receives the ball on the left foot and changes the ball to their right foot

Continue to go anti-clockwise,

How fast can you go and stay in control?

Change direction (go clockwise)

Simultaneous passing (2)

warm upsAs above, the players stand facing each other with a football at their right foot.more passing

Again, each player simultaneously passes to the other players left foot

This time, the receiver taps the ball from their left foot to their right foot and back to their left foot.

Pass the ball back to your partner with the foot that receives the ball

How fast can you go and stay in control?

Reverse direction (right foot, left foot, right foot)

Pass and Flick

Pass and flickBoth players stand with a ball in front of their feet soccer coaching warm up

Player A aims a gentle pass to player B’s ball

B meanwhile flicks the ball gently over the oncoming ball to A with the outside of the foot

Each player controls the new ball and continues


Change so that B aims and A flicks

Change to use the inside of the foot to flick

Pass and Chip

Pass and flickBoth players stand with a ball in front of their feet

Player A aims a gentle pass to player B’s feet

B meanwhile chips the ball gently over the oncoming ball to A with the foot

Each player controls the new ball and continues


Change so that B aims and A chips

Shuttle sprinting

Shuttle sprinting

Shuttle sprinting

Set out a grid 10 X 20 yards using disc cones in 2 lines. The distance between the cones should be 5 yards. Place 4 balls at cone E at the opposite side of the grid to the players.

The players stand behind cone A and on ‘GO’ the red and yellow players run to collect a football from E and dribble it to a cone A through D.

– Which cone is first is the player’s decision, but at the end of the sequence, each one A through D must a have a ball.

– When all balls are placed, the player runs back to the start and touches the hand of the next player.

– The next player works in reverse and dribbles each ball back to cone E.

– Repeat until all players have had a turn.

Shuttle passing

Set up

Separate your players into groups of three.

end player……………cone……cone……………..end player

The two end players should be directly across from each other and approximately 20 yards apart. A third player (or third and fourth players) should be in the middle standing between two marker cones. Each of the end players should have a football at their feet.

note: you can have one or more groups of four by having two players in the middle or rotating a fourth player into a group of three.


When the coach gives the command, the player(s) in the middle must run towards an end player, calling for the ball and showing herself. The end player passes the ball to the middle player’s feet. The middle player controls it and passes it back. As soon as the player in the middle passes the ball back she must turn and run towards the other end player. No stopping to admire the pass! The middle player(s) should be calling for the ball when they get about ten feet from the other end player. Again, they receive/return a pass, turn and run.

The middle player must continue running back and forth, receiving and passing balls. She should be running at pace and trying to maintain good speed and quality touches throughout the entire drill. Do not tolerate technical mistakes as players get tired.

When thirty seconds or so is up, the middle player switches with one of the end players and recovers. Continue this drill until all three players have been the middle person.

Make it competitive by seeing which group can complete the most passes in one minute.

What to look for

Quality passing, quick turns and hard work. The middle player will be tired towards the end of their session and will have to focus hard on making good quality passes. Applaud their efforts.


1. To increase the difficulty of this drill make the middle person use only one touch. This way she must concentrate even more.

2. Have the end players toss the balls into the middle person. The middle person can either bring the ball down to his/her feet or directly volley pass the ball back to their teammate.

3. Using one ball, the middle player shows for a pass from an end player, turns with the ball, runs back to the centre (marked out with two cones) passes to the other end player, continues the run, gets the return, takes the ball back to the middle and so on. It’s hard work but very good for fitness and improving basic ball skills.

Practice heading – the end players throw the ball to middle player who sprints to the ball, jumps to head it back to the server, turns, sprints to the other server. Servers should throw to allow middle player to sprint 15-20 yards between each header.

Quick thinking

Quick thinking

Quick thinking

5 Players are placed in a line, 4 of them have a football.

Player 1 stands 10 yards away.

Player one receives a pass and takes two touches. He/she then passes to the player with no football. He/she cannot go back to the player who has passed them the ball. All players take a turn at receiving.

Focus on:

  • Make sure the players relax, players tend to rush this exercise. Its quality that matters.
  • Quality first touch and pass.
  • Communication, especially from the player who hasn’t got the football.
  • Tell the players to think who they received a pass from, that they are the ones who will receive the next pass.
  • Open body position.


Play one touch, Volleys. Chest and pass, headers.