In children's football, different rules apply than in adult football. This applies to the way the children are addressed, to the content of the training and also to the structure of the training. Especially when warming up, the differences between children's football and adult football should be taken very seriously. This article is intended to provide an overview and refers in many places to topic-specific articles in this blog. Children's football is understood here as Under 7s - Under 11s.

What are the benefits of warming up in children's football?

In children's football, the warm-up is about activating the little ones for the next part of the training. This means that they are motivated to participate and their bodies are ready to move a little. This is especially true for U7s and U9s.

The aspect of introducing the next training contents in terms of content is also relevant with increasing age of 10 onwards, but it is by far not as important as in adult football. The warm-up can therefore always consist of free movement, which can be combined with small ball, catching and running games.

Why do children warm up differently?

Here lies a decisive difference to adult football. Instead of working through everything bit by bit in a fixed order, it is first important overall that the little kickers are simply in motion and spend a lot of time with the ball. The movement should be versatile.

This means that different types of running (forwards, backwards, sideways), jumping (one-legged and two-legged) and other movements such as spider running, rolling on the floor, sitting down and standing up should be skilfully incorporated into the training. But simple stabilization exercises can also be incorporated as coordinative tasks.

Children benefit from general motor training throughout their lives. And even if football training should revolve around football, you can make your contribution here as a coach - especially in the warm-up. 

Running variations in children's football

From my own experience, I can report that the basic training in athletics, which also includes different forms of running, is excellently suited to facilitate movement sequences for children and thus also teach them sport-specific movements.

In a relatively short time, children run much more economically and are generally "rounder" and can jump better. They also benefit from this in football. This is especially true for speed performance, which - should a child later go in the direction of competitive football - is highly relevant. With a poor running style, children have clear disadvantages here, not to mention the possible physical consequences later on.

Motor requirements can almost always be combined with ball exercises for warming up. The ball increases the demands even more and makes the whole thing more interesting.

What are good exercises for warming up with children?

Skill games with movement tasks, catching games, relay races, courses with the ball and technique squares are excellent warm-up exercises for the little kickers.

Movement games

When called by the coach, imitate certain animals and their typical movements with full body effort (cow, lion, monkey, snake, elephant, eagle, etc.). Make sure that the movements include running, crawling and sealing, if the space allows. The ball can be taken along. For example, the elephant has it in its trunk between both hands, the monkey under one arm.

Catching games

Catching games increase the intensity and bring new variations to the movement sequences. Many stops, kicks and sideways movements create varied movement requirements in the warm-up.

With children, it is usually not a problem to use catching games at the beginning of the warm-up because there is hardly any risk of typical muscle injuries such as strains.

One form of a catching game with a ball is the free-running game on ball retention, which can be used from the U11s onwards.

Relay races

A very good warm-up exercise is relay races in which balls or other materials have to be transported and handed over. This is an excellent way to develop dexterity. You can use cones, poles, rugby balls, tennis balls or large pezzi balls as helpful materials.

The type of movement (running, crawling, jumping, etc.) and the form of ball transport (one hand, in front of or behind the back, over the head, with the foot, ...) can be specified and varied.

Course with ball

Courses with a ball develop technique and movement skills. In addition, they ensure that coordination is trained in such a way that the players have to concentrate on several things at the same time (ball position, distance to the cone, technique task). They should not be too complicated so that they can be set up quickly. The next task should only be given when the previous one has been sufficiently implemented by all players.

As a coach, you can also set up several courses and divide the players into performance-homogeneous groups so that the players can be coached more individually. This is an important aspect if you want to develop each player at his or her level and also ensure a sense of achievement among the children.

Technique Square

The technique square is a very good way to organize technique exercises in the warm-up programme. In this way, technique learning and practicing can be carried out across all levels.

Here, you as a coach need to work in groups that are as small as possible so that you can coach your players individually. It is best to divide larger groups into several squares and assign a coach to each of them. If you are alone, you should gradually work with all the squares.

General tips for warming up with children

Ideally, as a coach, you will be able to create a good mix between variety and routine. This means not doing something new every training session, but also not doing exercises so often that it becomes boring. If the time has come to do something new again, you can often tell by looking at the players because they are no longer focused.

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