As a student of the game, I like to take in all the information I can about my opponents, and warm ups present a great opportunity. In all likelihood, I can pick up a few different things about the other team I can hopefully take advantage of before the game is over.

The first thing I notice about the team is their energy and how into “it” they seem to be. A team that is lazily going through the drills while the coach looks over is likely to start slow, and if it continues all the way through the warm up session, it is a virtual guarantee. If I am confident in my read, I will let my players know that a strong, energized start will catch the other team off guard.

Likewise, if the other team warms up well and their play is animated, I also let my players know that this team is gunning for them, and a slow start is not acceptable. More or less, I try to turn whatever I notice into a vitalizing force for my players.

The other thing I like to watch is for individual strength and weakness. On the strong side, I want to make sure that if the other team has a play maker, that he is marked properly. On the other side, if they have players that appear to be weak links so to speak, I want to know so I can exploit them.

If I notice anything, I am not likely to tell my players, but will instead keep the information in my back pocket and see if my intuition was correct. If it is, a few choice words to the player(s) involved can make them aware of their important role (defending the other teams star, or exploiting a weak player) and serve as a confidence booster.

I will never forget a game I played in under-12’s at an out of state tournament against a team we had never played. Before the game, our team started with our standard warm up half lap with the players split into two tight lines, and one of the dad’s on our team overheard a discussion amongst their players, who were sitting on the sidelines, not yet warming up.  “They look like bees,” one player said to another, referencing our black and yellow jerseys. “Yeah, killer bees,” another player remarked. That dad told our coach, who in turn, decided to tell us. We knew we had them beat before we even took the soccer field, and we scored in the first 3 minutes and cruised to a 5-0 victory.  Of course, sometimes it is better to keep information from your players, but if you know you can use what you have to spark them, share it.