Tactics board from youth module course

Coaching Session Of The Month

Prematch warms ups – The Foundation Phase

Cast your minds back a few years – You are a player who’s been waiting all week for today. You’ve worked all week, trained well on Tuesday and today is your favourite day of the week – It’s Match Day.

You are changed and ready, boots clean, shin pads on and you run out onto the pitch. You hit a few balls to your team mates, and maybe smash a couple into the top bins before being called by the coach to begin – the warm up.

You line up with your team mates and start to run. You go through the usual routine, comprising of heel flicks, knee raises, side steps, half and three quarter paced sprints etc followed by a muscle group  by muscle group series of static stretches, to avoid those dreaded ‘pulls’. You may do a bit of ball work and then a few minutes before kick-off you line up on the half way line, with all of your other team mates and take it in turns to run with the ball towards the goal, play a 1-2 with the coach, and have a shot at goal. Collect your ball (remember being told to ‘Fetch your own rubbish’ if you missed the target?) and re-join the queue. You may get another go – you probably won’t.

As an adult player I was involved in such warm ups most weeks, and some of it was necessary, especially for an aging player who could pull a hammy just thinking about sprinting down the wing after a pass.

For adults this may be appropriate, but is such a warm up appropriate for players in the Foundation Phase? The answer is most definitely no. If you have taken time to look through the England Foundation Phase DNA, you will have come across a key message


Players in the Foundation Phase are exactly the same as you and I were when it came to match day – they love it. So when thinking about your warm ups, remember that it is all part of the match day experience that you provide for your players – so make it fun.

A warm up should de designed to engage your players as early as possible after they arrive, and get them ready for the game. They don’t need to do laps of the pitch, or run from one side of the pitch to the other, and they really don’t need to do those static stretches. They are more supple and more flexible than at any other time of their lives, so don’t waste time on them.

Think back to your Level 1 course and the arrival activities you looked at. Tag games are a great way to start, and there are loads of them you can do. They get the players moving – in different ways, in different directions, at different speeds. Gets them dodging, weaving, raises their heart rate and gets them breathing a bit heavier. Most of all it’s fun, and gets them laughing with their mates.

Here are a couple of examples from the FA Education Vimeo channel

Team Tag

Team Tag (Safe Ball)

When it comes to ball work, try and get all of your players on or as near to a ball as possible. Individual ball work in a set area, moving from 1v1 or 2v2 games are all great ways of achieving this. It gives you as the coach to give some 1 to 1 input tom players, maybe reminding them of challenges they’d been set in training, and asking them to continue these in the game.

Watch this example from the FP DNA resource: (You will need to be registered on Hive to access the video)

DNA pregame warm up

As for the popular practice of lining up all of your team on the half way line, and them taking it in turns to play a 1-2 with you, and shoot – can you put yourself in the boots of your players, as on the whole, they get 1 shot before the kick off. Can you think of an alternative approach, which will keep them all engaged, whilst still achieving your objective of giving your goalkeeper some action.

Here’s an example:

Set up a square outside the penalty area, and get all of the players inside the square each with a ball, moving around in the square (ball manipulation) At random times, call out the name of a player, who has to break out towards the goal and take a shot.

A progression to this would be to call out a second name, a couple of seconds later, and that player has to make a recovery run without their ball, trying to put pressure on the attacking player.

There are lots of variations I’m sure you can come up with which would achieve the same objective, but this is a start.

Session plan

If you are a coach in the foundation phase, you can get some fantastic ideas and information from joining the growing number of coaches on the FA Hive page. If you haven’t signed up to Hive yet, you can do so, for free here.

If you signed up to see Pete Sturgess deliver his Foundation Phase DNA workshop in December, don’t despair. We are working hard with Pete, and Eastwood CFC to arrange date before the end of the season. If you have signed up already, you will be automatically enrolled for the workshop.