Warm-Up Game

The start of a session sets the tone for the day, focuses the players on soccer and gets their body ready for physical activity. With younger teams (U12 and below) I like to start with a game that relates to the topic I’ll be teaching. One of my favorites for days that we are working on dribbling is a progression of Tag.

To begin with, the players leave their ball outside the grid. The two players who are ‘It’ (you can use only one for the youngest players) hold a colored bib. The other players move freely throughout the grid. The players who are ‘It’ try to tag another player. If they do, that player gets the shirt and tries to tag someone else. The other players are encouraged to move constantly and be aware of where the ‘It’ players are.

After two minutes everyone, including the players who are ‘It’, get a ball. The rules are the same but now everyone has to control a ball while they are trying to tag players and avoid being tagged. If a player dribbles out of the area they take the bib from the closest defender.

Next, the players who are ‘It’ leave their ball outside the area and instead of trying to tag people with their hand, they try to tag the ball with their foot. The dribblers are asked to move the ball away from the pressuring player and protect it.

In the final progression the players who are ‘It’ must take the ball away before their change role with the dribbler. If the ‘It’ players kicks the ball out of the area, the dribbler gets it back. If the dribbler leaves the area, he changes roles with the closest defender.

This is an easy to understand warm-up that provides everything necessary to prepare a player for practice. It is also progressive as it begins without a ball adds more defensive pressure gradually. You can add pressure by increasing the number of defenders depending on the age and ability of the players.

What is your favorite warm-up?


  1. Jeff Rogers says:

    This looks like a great drill for my sons team who is currently playing U11. One of my favorite warm games is the 4 goals in square similar to what you have here and really focusing on control in the small space and looking for their player running to goal while looking to defend their own goal.

  2. JPolito says:

    This is a nice variation of one of our warm-up staples. I like the progression you show. Usually we go straight to the last stage or sometimes with younger players, the first to the last. I have also used a variation where the players that are “it” have a ball, and must dribble and hit the other players (who don’t have ball) below the knees with their ball. This variation works on dribbling and passing/shooting accuracy, as well as agility, change of speed/direction, etc…

  3. Stephen says:

    One of my favorite warm-up games is Invisible Soccer.

    Although a bit corny, it can be great to warm the legs, mouth, and mind. Regular soccer rules apply: side- and end- lines, offsides, goal scoring, etc. However, no soccer ball is actually used. Two teams are created and a regular scrimmage ensues.

    Players should move normally, and “dribbling” the ball is just running.
    In order to pass the “ball,” the player must yell the name of the target.
    Scoring requires the player to “dribble” over the indicated goal line.

    The defending team must tag the player with the “ball” in order to win possession. The player applying the tag has the “ball” and play continues normally.
    Restarts come seamlessly and the “ball” begins with the defender closest to where the “ball” was when play was stopped (not including corner kicks, which are played as in a regular game).

    i.e. Andy has the “ball.” He begins to “dribble” up the field. He yells “Aaron!” and Aaron now has the “ball” up the sideline. Aaron then crosses it by yelling “Alex!” He is immediately tagged before he can do anything. Billy, who tagged Alex, now has the “ball.” He screams “Ben” who is able to beat the offside trap by Team A and sprints in to score a goal.

    This drill not only gets the team running, but it also gets them talking, organzing defensively, and making runs offensively. It is a great game that will be a great base for any team-based training session.