The goal is to get the players limber, ready to run (but not tired!), comfortable with the ball, and acclimated to field conditions–all in usually 20 minutes. Easy, right? Before we get into some things I recommend, you want to specifically avoid the following:
- Burning them out – Don’t have long periods of high intensity, you’ll just be wearing them out before the opening whistle
- Static stretching – This is touching toes, doing the splits, etc. 14u players and below will get almost zero value from this activity before a game and it can actually be detrimental. There are plenty of better ways to get them limber (see below)
- Introducing novelty – This is the worst time for players to try to learn a new drill or concept. Keep their mind focused on the game to come
So what are some types of activities that are recommended:
- Juggling – This actually is an aerobic and stretching activity if done correctly. Don’t believe me? Go out on a cold day and try to get to 50 juggles. See if you aren’t warm and noticing a few stretched muscles by the end of it. It also provides a lot of touch points with the ball while being low intensity (a great pregame combo)
- Ball control progression – A series of movements like toe taps, foundations, sole rolls etc
- Shooting progression – Taking shots from a standstill, then bouncing, then crossing, etc
- Small sided games – 2v2 or 3v3 passing and keep away style games
Finally, make sure you set up your activities on the WORST sections of the field. Look for the brown spots, the ultra thick sections, the muddy parts, etc. They’re going to be playing on that field shortly, better they see the rough spots before the game.
And just like in any good drill, remember that there should be no standing in line!