EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

Create themes for your warm ups

Even young players need to do warm ups. But don’t let them become boring. Instead, build themes for players to follow to allow them to access the benefits of a good preparation for training or matches. 

While we might argue the exact benefits of warm ups, you still need them to prepare the players mentally and physically for the training session or match.

Your approach will depend on the age group and what lies ahead. A warm up for training might be shorter than a match warm up, and the focus will be on the specific skills you will be exploring in the session.

However, you need to have a shared responsibility with the players engaged in the process. That’s why I use a relatable theme. And to keep them further engaged I like to make sure it is playful, with games and challenges included.

TRAINING WARM UPS

Keeping to a playful theme, the warm up should start with movement, though not sprints. The players might move around in a small area, adopting various body shapes.

For example, you might get them to act as animals in the zoo, with gorilla walks, or giraffes stretching down and up. Or a superhero theme can have Spiderman stances or Superman exploding into the air.

This could be part of a “small box” game. Here you can play “follow the leader”, where players chase nominated players or try to mirror the movements of their partner.

I like to use a traffic light system, starting with red lights for stop and green for go. The players shouldn’t bump into each other, moving in any direction. You can add in “lights” to make them go faster or go slower.

If you have enough balls, the players can “drive their car” around the box, with parking and reversing added into the mix of terms.

Another variation is the “disco”, where the players can dance in different ways. You can shout this out at any stage. You can join in yourself of course. The more reticent players might find this difficult, and this needs careful management so players don’t feel exposed if they don’t feel confident as dancers.

A further fun variation for all ages is to play “Simon Says”. “Simon says hop, Simon says jump on two feet, touch the ground…” You can break this down into smaller groups with players leading this part of the session, trying to catch each other out.

ADDING A BALL

Of course, if the players have a ball in hand, it increases their ball awareness. This may not be practical if you don’t have the equipment.

You can have a circus tricks routine, where the players tumble with the ball while avoiding bumping into each other. Or the players can be vehicles, driving the ball around or bulldozers pushing against each other.

Gorillas can push the ball forward with their hands while moving forward in a squatting position. You can call out “food” and the gorilla leaves their ball and tries to scoop up another gorilla’s ball.

On this animal theme, with the ball in hand, you can have bear walks and frog jumps. With the bear walk, the player has to control the ball with their hands or feet.

The players have now been active, done some fitness and taken up some of the shapes they might in a game. 

If you ran this for 10 minutes, including the games, you would change up the activity every two to three minutes.

SMALL BOX GAMES

Sharks and fishes

This is a simple pairs chasing game. A fish follows the shark, imitating what the shark does. You can shout in commands which change the behaviours of the players. For example, hop, skip, run backwards. You can also freeze the sharks temporarily and then shout freeze again to the fish. The sharks now have a countdown of three to catch the fish.

Other silly ideas include: “funny gills” where the players run with their hands at the sides of their faces like gills. Or “Eat” where the sharks have to run around clapping their hands, chasing the fish.

Zombies and humans

The zombies chase the humans, probably moving stiff legged to start with. You can “inject” zombie juice to make them move more quickly.

The humans can use a fast walk and if they are touched, they have to dance like a zombie.

KIDS NEED WARM UPS

Actually, kids don’t need to warm up in the same way as older players. Yet, it is important to build good habits and get used to the fact they need to do some preparation for exercise. 

It will help protect young joints and develop different areas like reaction, stability, awareness, communication and general health.


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