I believe that the warm-up sets the tone for practice. If you can have a quality warm-up, it gets everybody buzzing for the rest of the session. How do you achieve this? I have found that there are usually one or two players on a team that can be energizers for the group. An energizer pumps up her teammates and raises the energy level. Thus, when selecting a warm-up activity, pick one that your energizers will love.
I remember coaching a young lady named Jasmine Pratts. If anyone had the mindset of a defender, she did! She loved to defend. What I mean by that is, she had the mentality that she was going to stop you from playing your game. She would bump, nudge, capitalize on a bad touch, and if she got you in her sights, she wouldn’t leave you alone. Of course, I started her as a forward her freshman year! Shows what I know! She didn’t play her sophomore year, but she returned as a junior and was simply outstanding. Jasmine was an older player on a team primarily composed of freshmen. We were young, scrappy, and we had the kind of talent that on its day could be amazing. Because we were young, though, we had our bad days, too.
In April of that year, we went to Augusta and played a very strong Westminster team with a number of girls who would later play in excellent college programs (University of GA, University of Florida, and Wellesley College to name a few). We got pounded 8-1…that’s right, we lost by 7 goals to a team that would score 100 that year. It was a long bus ride home. How do you recover from a loss like that? Well, it starts in the warm-up of the next practice and you have to get your energizers doing their job. What did we play? Knockout (Sharks and Minnows in this book). This was Jasmine’s favorite game because she would hound you until she kicked your ball out – in fact, she took pleasure in it and she got everyone else moving, forgetting the disaster of the previous game.
Anyway, we got things back together and went on a run to the state championship game, squeezing through the semi final with a 1-0 win. Guess who we were slated to play…Westminster. The team that just 6 weeks earlier had demolished us! You can talk tactics all day long, but when the whistle blows, the players are on their own. This was the game where Jasmine stepped up and marked their star forward out of the game. I have never seen something like it before or since of how such a strong player was effectively taken out of the game. The girl did not get a kick. Jasmine epitomized the mindset I am trying to communicate in my new book. The score of the game? We won 5-1…It pays to win on defense!