How many of you have seen teams during their warmup joking around and obviously not focused on the game? There are no coaches within sight and players are standing around hitting shots at their goalie. It is extremely important that before your game your team is organized and focused on the match. Players standing around talking and ripping shots at their goalie is a recipe for disaster and a great way to start the game flat.
Before your first game in your preseason or your practices leading up to your first game, go through a walk-through of your pre-game warmup. Make sure every player knows what they will be doing and how long they will have to go through each phase of your warmup. This should be the case no matter what level you are playing. A team that is organized and looks good in their warmup will send a message to the other team that they are focused and ready to play and it’s a good way to intimidate the opposing team.
Talk to your players and find out what they do before coming to the field. The more focused they can be on soccer and their role for the match the more prepared your players will be. Everyone is different and everyone feels different emotions before games. Some players are nervous or anxious while others are calm and naturally are ready to play.
As an example, prepping for a game started the minute I woke up on game-day. I would set the alarm in a timely fashion so I would be able to get a proper meal and give myself the energy and nutrients that would get me through the match. Generally, I was anxious before a match so I would take the time and watch YouTube videos of goals or highlights from recent matches. I always took a pre-game shower where I would close my eyes and imagine myself on the field and where my positioning would be. I would imagine scoring a cracking goal or providing an important assist. I would imagine the scoreboard and how it would read after the game. I would focus on the opposing team and their tactics and how I was going to stop them from succeeding. On the way to the locker room I would listen to whatever music I was into at the moment. Walking from my car to the locker room the headphones were in and I was focused.
Before every match our coach would come into the locker room and go over the starting lineup. He would tell us which players we needed to focus on, how we were going to play that day and how the match was going to play out. He would walk out of the locker room and give us 10 minutes of self-reflection to do whatever it is we wanted to do. Most players would listen to music while others would crack jokes. As previously mentioned, everyone’s pre-game emotions are different.
Walking from the locker room to the field we lined up in twos and walked to the field together. Everyone had 10 minutes on their own to dribble around, juggle and get some touches or just relax on the bench and soak in the atmosphere. Next we would jog across the field several times and have a proper stretch, followed by 10-15 minutes of five a side possession in tight areas. After that the defenders would hit long balls with each other and the midfielders/forwards would go into a shooting drill. By that time, it was time to put on our kits and get checked in with the referee.
The point is everyone knew how we were going to prepare for every game. How you setup your warmup is completely up to you and your philosophies but the most important thing is that it’s organized. Even if you are blessed with tons of talent and are playing against a weaker opponent it is very easy to come out flat and to give up an early goal because you aren’t mentally focused on the game. I have seen it so many times. When half-time comes around the coach is ripping their players up because the focus wasn’t there before the game. I hate to tell you coach but that is your responsibility. Make sure your players take their warmup seriously. It’s not only a time to focus on the game but it’s also a time to get the muscles warm and to prevent injuries. Mentally prepare. Get in a warmup routine. Focus. And get results.