I think it’s important to start practices with an activity that will engage the players and get their attention. When players arrive at the practice field they have usually come from a busy day of school. They may have spent some time playing with friends around the neighborhood. Depending on their practice time, they may have eaten dinner. Before they can be expected to learn anything we have to get them to focus on where they are and what they are doing.
Most of the time I begin with a fun game that they will enjoy but will also have a connection to the topic of the session I’ve planned. Another exercises that works well is the ‘Dots’ warm-up that I’ll describe below. I’ve done this as with ‘Gates’ as well but one day I was short on cones and just put a single cone down rather than use two cones to create a gate.
This had some unintended consequences that offered some things that the gates did not. The cones can be approached from any angle which makes it easier for the players to dribble smoothly from one cone to the other without have make a radical change in direction. Secondly, two players can dribble at the same cone and as long as they changed direction before running over the cone, they could both perform the movement and dribble away to the next cone. This also adds some additional pressure to change direction in time because they risked running into another player and not just a cone. There are also advantages to using gates so you can experiment with both and see what works best for your players depending on what you’re trying to teach.
Three different colored cones are spread randomly around an area. The size of the area depends on the number of players you have as well as their age and ability level.
To begin with I have the players dribble from one ‘Dot’ to the next in a pattern of their choice. They are allowed to change the pattern whenever I stop the players for a change in rules or to give a coaching point.
There are many things that you can have the players focus on as they dribble: inside/outside of one foot only, dribble to the right of each cone using the farthest foot, change speed as they pass each cone, change direction away from each cone, etc.
Next, I’ll have them perform a certain fake or move when they approach a specific color cone. For example: Have the players perform a scissors when they come to the yellow cone in their pattern. The players simply dribble to the orange and blue cones. Add different activities for the other cones one at a time until the players have something to do each time they reach a cone.
This warm-up is limited only by your imagination. Please share your ideas for variations in the comments section of this post.