Younger Players - Warm Ups

Warm ups for young players should be fun first and foremost. They will often arrive at training full of energy and desperate to play. Having them take part in very long static stretching routine or running round the edge of the pitch are not going to make for what the children view as a fun start to the session or have any real relevance or purpose, whilst going straight into too much football "coaching" may miss the opprtunity to calm the players down by letting them burn off that initial energy. The warm up phase is important for lots of reasons and what you do in it will vary as your players get older.

Some ideas for warm ups for young players that are fun, useful in terms of developing their agility, balance, coordination and football-related movement skills whilst also keeping everyone involved and burning off some energy...

Games They Are Used To

Think about some of the playground games that children are used to playing. Things like British Bulldog, Stuck in the Mud and Tag/It are games that are fun, involve moving around, dodging, chasing, changes of direction, decision making, changes of pace, avoiding opponents and so on and for the most part, the players already know the basic rules, which means no or little explanation is needed from you. You can very easily start with the traditional version of the game and then introduce a ball that can be carried, thrown, caught or controlled with feet, whilst keeping the rest of the game the same. Some ideas:

  • Stuck in the Mud - the team being chased have one or more balls that they throw between them. When a player is "stuck", another player has to pass or throw the ball between their legs to unstick them.
  • British Bulldog - each player running across has a ball to control. Instead of having to tag them, the chasers have to win their ball off them.
  • Tag - there is a good version where each player has a bib tucked into the back of their shorts and the person who is "It" has to snatch everyone's bib. They then join them on the tagging team. Last one standing is the winner.

Be creative - using traditional playground games but introducing new, football-related rules can be a great way to get your players warmed up.

Other Games

There are hundreds of fun warm up games for young players, but a few others that particularly spring to mind involve variations on...

  • A Ball For Everyone - really simply, just give each player a ball and let them dribble around a rectangular area. Encourage individuals to try some simple turns, stop the ball, maybe a trick or two for the players who look more comfortable. It will quite probably look chaotic, but the kids are getting used to having to deal with controlling a ball whilst avoiding other players. At this age, the ball is their main focus, so giving them one each is a great way to start their session off! Progressions can involve have a couple of defenders try and knock footballs out of the square, or having a ball between 2 players and get them to pass to each other around the area. Plenty of scope for being creative with this and progressing it in all sorts of ways. There is a session plan based on this here...
  • Turning Cones - scatter a load of cones of different colours around an area and have the players see if they can turn them all over within a time period. You can introduce someone who is turning them back over to make it harder, have them dribble a ball around whilst doing it, use different colour cones for different numbers of points and so on. A simple warm up that gets them moving, working as a team and a fun element of competition.
  • Netball Passing in Groups - have a ball between 3 or 4 and have the players throw it to each other whilst moving around an area. Set up cones as "gates" that they have to throw between to score points, as long as a player catches it on the other side. There is a further variation where there are 2 teams and a player has to catch the ball in an end zone to score. These sorts of games are getting the players working on their movement, awareness of team mates, communication, hand-eye coordination, catching, agility and so on... there are bags of benefits.
The lists above are just ideas and by no means intended to be exhaustive. Please let us know if you have any warm up activities you do that your players particularly enjoy and we'll include them here!

Running Laps (!?)

Running laps is not football related, it's boring, it has no tangible benefit for the development of younger players and it's exhausting. There are a million more relevant and useful things you can have the players doing at training. I found this on a website I was looking at recently, which sums it up pretty well...

"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. So…no laps!"

- credit:


At the very young ages research says that most players do not need to stretch. Their bodies have a natural elasticity that protects them from the same sort of injuries that older children, teens and adults may suffer with if not stretching prior to play. Some folks may argue that it is good to get your players into the habit of stretching properly as this habit engrained at a young age will benefit them when they're older. That's up to you. I would argue it's wasted time for the most part at the age of 7, when there are more relevant warm ups you can have your younger players doing, but others may disagree. Do what works for you and your players.

If you do want to involve some stretching in your warm up, it's worth understanding the basics of static and dynamic stretching and what each stretch is doing in terms of the muscles it affects. As your players get older and especially when they reach 11 or 12 and start to go through puberty, this all becomes much more relevant.