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Team Pregame Warm-Up Routines

by John Sandahl


Team Warm ups should accomplish two goals:

Prepare a team 1) mentally and 2) physically for the game ahead.  Most teams perform at their peak if they can use their warm up to feel like they comfortable with their system and their bodies.   Any team warm up should include enough things to get the team focused and ready for the task at hand without becoming drudgery.  
The "warm up" should generally start an hour before the first pull.  That means cleats on ready to run an hour before the first game of the day.  Obviously, with tournaments the corresponding meet times may change if games are tighter than an hour between and players are already physically warm.  The most important thing to remember is that you will perform how you practice.  If you’re casual and laid back in your warm up – that’s how you’ll likely play.  Some experienced teams in some situations can flip a switch but don’t count on this unless you don’t care about results.

There are a lot of variables to consider before deciding on an exact warm up: 

1. Physical Situation (One game or part of a tournament/)
     a. What are the weather conditions?
     b. Current physical state. (Hot, Cold, Tired, Fresh, injured etc.)
     c. How have you been performing physically to this point vs similar situations in the past. 

2. Mental situation
     a. What is your teams mental state? (Beaten, over – excited, blasé?)
     b. What is your team working on improving?
     c. Who are you playing and what do you know about them vs. your teams goals and strength/weak areas?

Assuming that a your team is looking to perform at their peak at it’s the first game of the day here is a basic outline for a standard team:

Space Check in – Meet – and huddle.  [2 minutes]

A chance to answer question, How are we? What’s present in this huddle right now? Things that might be present include: excitement, tiredness, resentment, frustration., fear of opponent and many more including things unrelated to the game at hand.  You shouldn’t assume as a coach or captain that what’s in the huddle will always be the same and therefore that the warm up will correspondingly need to be the "same."  Address what is present and you will help your team become more prepared mentally to play.   Jogging before you’ve addressed the team’s current mental state can impair warm up and therefore focus and performance. 

Physical Warm-up (as needed depending on situation).  [15-20 minutes]

Jogging, Plyos/active stretching, then Rhythm drill with limited or no defense to get in the flow of moving and executing. The best is usually a simple drill with Running/Throwing/Catching.  Working your way up to game speed gently over 20 minutes.   If you’re not sweating by then end of the 20 minutes you’re not working hard enough. 

Its ok to have several different Rhythm drills but ideally they involve timing and lots of touches.  A double box drill (two discs) with in or out cuts can be very effective for this.  You can also vary the box in size depending on the wind.  Using a very small box to practice short reset passes in the wind and big box for cutter timing and throwing.   For those with basketball experience this is similar in function to a layup drill in basketball.  Make the simple plays in the flow of the game as you allow your body to ramp upwards in speed.  

Mental check in – Situation – where we need to be strong to be successful.  [3 minutes]

Things that may factor in:
     1. What just happened in the previous game(s)
     2. What are the opportunities for us to improve?
     3. Who we’re playing in this game – what they like to do.
     4. Is the weather dramatically affecting our performance? Is this a field position  (Bad weather) or a possession (Good weather) game?

All of these things can be considered by the coach or captains – perhaps even before the day starts.  

Most teams shouldn’t focus too much on what the "other team" is doing as this thinking can put a team into worrying instead of preparing.  As a coach, however I will often consider the other team (if I know something about them) and tailor our pregame drills towards the skills that are important for us to focus on in order to be successful. Many teams at the highest level will know the skills that they need to focus on each and every game no matter who the opponent and so can easily  just look at which skill needs attention and go from there.  

Drill for focus areas – 2-3 drills with limited time between each. [20 minutes]

Once you’re decided what needs attetion then simply drill the skills necessary for optimal game time performance for 20 minutes. 

Some things that you might want to work on:

  • Short throws and catches in windy games 
  • Continuation cutting
  • Resetting practice 
  • Long throws in games where that will an important option.  
  • Marking against a good throwing team or when marking needs focus
  • Defending against a good cutting team or when person defending needs focus
  • Drill to apply physical pressure on the mark or downfield to prepare for the same in the game. 
  • Zone applications

Situational scrimmaging  [10-15 minutes]

Simple half-field scrimmage practice to warm up to game speed and practice communication.   Situational scrimmaging ( Endzone, fastbreaks or getting the disc off the sideline. ) No more than 10-15 minutes of this.

Final throwing/Personal time  [5-10 minutes]

Leave the last 5-10 minutes for players to work on private time stuff  - adjust cleats, stretch, Practice pulling and getting lots of throws in the last few minutes.

Final huddle  [2 minutes]

In the final huddle there should be no new information.  Players should know who is playing and what they have to do to be successful.  If you get to this huddle and find yourself adding ideas – you didn’t do a good job preparing for your warm up.   

Things to avoid in structuring your warm up:

A lot of people standing in line waiting to do something.  

  • Unless the drill is specifically because you’re trying to avoid running too much (a la – masters team before third game of the day) while also getting some game speed action in.  
  • Rule of thumb – more throws is better.  Two people doing a circle drill and getting 40-60 throws in is far more productive that 20 people each  getting 5 throws in.  
  • Even three person marking with a little running and marking but a lot of throwing is better than standing a lot.  

Over warm-up.  

  • Especially true in "big game" and "late in tournament times" Matt Tsang (coach of Fury) was quoted recently as saying, "Ultimate teams warm up too much." I believe this is a function of warming up that goes beyond mental and physical focus and leads to tiredness and drudgery.  Be looking for this with players.  Also recognize that if the weather is warm or you’ve already played a game or two then a long jog to ‘warm cold muscles’ is probably unnecessary.  Similarly – if you’re well into a tournament day – drills with lots of running may be unnecessary and actually impair performance. 

Under warm-up. 

  • Easy to do if you feel like you’re "supposed to win" a game.  This can lead to injuries and bad habits.  
  • Introducing new skills/learning/Drills into pre-game warmups. 
  • Any drill that you want to do to warm up for a game should be introduced and explained at practice. Spending warm up time trying to explain how to do a drill is wasteful.


huddle issue033

Tue June 28th, 2011

Preparing for the Game at Hand
by Max Cook

Get Your Team on One Page
by Greg Husak

Routine Need Not Mean Redundant
by Matt Mackey

The New School Warm-up
by Tim Morrill

Find What Works For Your Team
by Chelsea Putnam

Three Warm-Up Fundamentals
by Miranda Roth

Team Pregame Warm-Up Routines
by John Sandahl

Shift Your Focus
by Melissa Witmer

We Will Laugh
by Ben Wiggins




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