Game Day Warm Up Preparation for Youth Football
Game Day can be an interesting time. There’s always a buzz in the air as the players prepare for the game and the coaches get excited for the upcoming test. It’s very easy to allow the excitement to overcome the players and not worry about a routine but it’s critical that the warm-up for the game remains the same as practices.
Each pre-game routine needs to be adjusted for your team. It’s important as a coach that you find out what gets the players most prepared to play the game. Many times teams respond to a long structured warm-up. The most common structure for the pre-game warm-up is to progress through Specialist, SAQ, Individual and then Team periods.
The first period is called the Specialist Period. This is the time when players who throw, catch, snap or kick the ball take the field. The idea of this period is for the QBs to get their arms loose so they don’t have to worry about it during the shortened Individual period after SAQ. While the QBs are warming up their arms, the WRs are working on their basic routes. Again they are looking to get the basics of their warm-up completed so they can work with the QBs on throwing and catching routes during the Individual time. Some teams fill this period with Pat and Go, Settle and Noose or other low speed drills.
In the structure above the full team warm-up begins with the SAQ. SAQ stands for Speed, Agility and Quickness and consists of all of the dynamic warm-ups that help to warm players up for practice. Studies have shown repeatedly that dynamic stretching is much better for preparing players for practices or games than static stretching. A normal routine will have players executing each dynamic stretch for 10 yards. The progression should start with less dynamic movements and then progress up towards higher speed movements.
After SAQ the players will break out into their individual position groups to get their final warm-up in. These drills should consist of the Everyday Drills that players do at practice. The idea is to simulate the practice experience as closely as possible so players are prepared for the game. Many times during this period different offensive groups will work together. Depending on the offense this could be QBs throwing routes to WRs or QBs working with the RBs on Mesh Drill.
The last and final stage of warm-ups is the Team period. This is done differently by different teams. Some teams use the scout team to run the plays and defensive formations they are expecting to see. The teams I have always been around just put out the first offense and the first defense. During this period it’s all about execution. Players shouldn’t be worried about winning the play but instead about executing their assignment and getting their minds and bodies fully prepared for the upcoming game.
The most important thing about Pre-Game Warm-ups is to find what works best for your team. I have coached some teams that needed a long slow warm-up where intensity was slowly ratcheted up. Other teams seemed to do better when we were running behind and had a shorter warm-up. It’s important as a Coach you get a clear idea of what your team needs to perform best and then provide that environment for them.
See also: Practice Week Game Planning