Pre-game activities such as analysis and tactical preparation have become a vital part of match days for many football clubs. This is also true for warm ups just before any game. Many professional clubs use specialised equipment, such as activation bands, to aid players warm-ups. While others use tactical principles to activate their players with defensive and attacking phases of the game in their warm-ups. Most professional clubs have the facilities and the number of coaches to divide their time and their warm-up effectively. But what about the grassroots and amateur coaches who don't have an army of staff nor can afford the resources to warm-up their players like the professional clubs.
There are many theories behind how and why warming-up before a game is important, but the general consensus is that it prepares the body for physical activity by gradually increasing the heart rate, blood flow to muscles and loosening joints for mobility. It also helps with the mental side of preparation, because it gives players the opportunity to focus on the game. Warming up also allows players to familiarise themselves with the ball and the conditions.
The importance of planning
Every warm-up is important and it is necessary to think of it as mini-training session with the game in mind. We need to plan and prepare every warm-up just as thoroughly as a training session. This will help your warm-up be more fluid, whilst maintaining key components of the game that you wish to execute.
Timing is essential
Often coaches ask, how long should the warm-up be? This is a good question and one that has multiple answers depending on who you speak to and what you consider the warm up to be. From a physical perspective it should be no longer than 20 minutes because you don't want to cause any fatigue before the game. From a mental perspective and getting used to the conditions, this can be anything from 20 to 40 minutes in my opinion.
The biggest debate for warm-ups often comes around the age of when they should be done. However, we often think of warm-ups as only physical preparation, however we have discussed the importance of the psychological side as well as the ‘feeling’ of the ball. This should conclude that warm-ups at any age are important, we just cater and adapt for the age that we coach to prepare players for the match.
There are hundreds of different opinions and ways of doing pre-game warm-ups. However, whatever your warm-up is, it is essential that your players are in the correct mental and physical state to start the game immediately.