This week I want to share a warm-up that I’ve used with every age group I coach. It’s a fun and dynamic game that can be used to prepare for many different types of sessions.
It’s based on a simple game of Tag. The first thing I do is have all of the players give me their ball and move into the penalty area. I give one player a scrimmage vest to hold with instructions to just play ‘Tag’. This is a game that every kid is familiar with and requires little or no explanation. THey know that the person holding the vest is it and they need to stay away from them while staying in the area. There will be players that start to ask questions and I usually just say, ‘Play Tag’.
I have the ‘It’ player hold the vest so that they can hand it to the person they tag but I’ll show the ‘It’ player as a different color in the diagrams for clarity.
I ask all of the players to at least be jogging even if the ‘It’ player is not chasing them. If there is not enough pressure on the players I will either make another player ‘It’ or limit the space to only half of the penalty area.
Next, I’ll have the players each get a ball, including the ‘It’ player. They play the same game with the same rules but now they are each have to focus on controlling a ball. This makes it much harder for the players who are ‘It’. I emphasize that the best way to avoid being tagged is to change direction away from the pressure because you’ll be able to move faster than the ‘It’ player since you know where you’re going and they don’t.
I increase the pressure on the dribblers by taking the ball away from the ‘It’ player. Now they try to touch the ball with their foot rather than tagging a player with their hand. This means that they dribblers are avoiding the pressure just as they would in the game. I encourage them to face pressure and beat the ‘It’ player if they can or turn and protect the ball by shielding it if the ‘It’ player is too close.
With less experienced players I will give them a move that they can do to make them immune from being tagged if they try it. This is great to use with moves or fakes that the players may have learned recently. They know they will be safe if they try it so there’s no fear of making a mistake. As they improve I’ll say that the ‘It’ player can catch them in the middle of the move but if they complete it they can’t be chased. That means that they have to perform the move early and explode away from pressure.
Another option is to require the ‘It’ player to ‘take’ the ball, not just touch it. This encourages the players to fight to keep the ball even if the defender touches it. It also forces the ‘It’ player to win the ball and not just poke it away.
As a final progression I’ll designate two ‘It’ players to work together and try to win the ball and pass it to me. If they do this the ball is out of the game but the player who lost it stays in the area to help their teammates by showing for a pass if they are under pressure. I emphasize that they need to help players who are under pressure and not just pass the ball with a player when their is no defender around.
This naturally progresses from individual possession to a game of keepaway where you can talk about passing the ball to the player with the most space and always moving it away from pressure.
Can you suggest any additions or changes that you would make to teach other techniques or tactics? Please share them in the comments section below.
Have a great day!