Organising a typical Walking Football session
Walking football has developed rapidly since 2014 following a popular television advert and there are now over 70 sessions across Scotland. It is important to have some guidelines for Walking Football so the sessions are consistent.
Before the Walking Football Session
The venue can be indoors or outdoors and the size of the pitch depends on the venue. The maximum recommended pitch size is a third of a full-sized pitch. This will really get the players walking around the pitch and meet their fitness levels. A full-sized pitch would be too big and the benefits of walking football would be lost – the ball would be doing the work and the players would have fewer touches of the ball. Look for a venue where costs are low and where they embrace walking football, so if the group take the session on in the future they will be playing at a positive, accommodating venue.
The Venue Facilities
Try and find a venue with facilities for refreshments. One of walking football’s key strengths is the social benefit it can bring for the players, so tea and coffee after the game is VERY valuable.
Team size depends on how many players turn up. Groups usually play 5v5, 6v6, 7v7 or and the players should let you know if there are too many players on each team. Ask the participants how many players they want on each side. You can have roll on, roll off substitutes to cater for the number of participants.
Age of Players
Using the right imagery and wording on your marketing will naturally attract the age group you wish to get involved at your session. Avoid putting any age restrictions such as 50+, as you could then miss out on potential participants; players in their late 40s with health issues will benefit from your sessions and will be the perfect participant for walking football. Tournaments may have strict guidelines on this.
All you need are 2 goals and a football. Bibs too if available. Jumpers for goalposts and a chance for the players to kick a football again. Most groups use a size 5 football but use whatever the players want – this could be a size 4 football or a futsal ball. Goals – use what is available to you! As long as they’re safe to use, then they’re perfect for a game of walking football.
Most players won’t have kicked a ball for years; they won’t have shin pads, boots and a full kit! Keep it simple and encourage the players to wear something they feel comfortable doing physical activity in. If they turn up in week 1 in their jeans and t-shirt and they are happy playing football in them, then that’s absolutely fine. As the players attend more sessions, they will naturally go out and purchase sports joggers, t-shirts and maybe even football socks and astro trainers! This is recreational football so players should be able to wear whatever they’re comfortable in.
The facilitator leading the sessions should be approachable, flexible in their approach and able to welcome all abilities to create a friendly atmosphere for the players. They don’t need any football-related qualifications but should be able to engage with the players and facilitate the session in a safe way. First aid training may also be beneficial in ‘leading’ a session. If you do not have a facilitator then fine. Just turn up and play ensuring fairness and respect throughout the session.
Host a Taster Event
Host a walking football taster session on the day you intend to deliver a regular session so you can see what demand is like. If the taster event is a success, you can then deliver regular sessions and continue to increase the number of participants.
When players arrive, make sure everyone is made to feel welcome. Agree at the start that if anyone needs a break, they can step off the pitch.
During the Walking Football session
Always start the session with a warm up
Some players won’t have kicked a football for years and may also be inactive. The warm up will be the most important part of the session so that the risk of injury is reduced and you can prepare the participants for the game. Introduce walking and dynamic stretches so that their muscles are ready for activity and, more importantly, their heart is slowly preparing for the physical activity.
Walking is probably the most simple and effective thing to introduce to the warm up to prepare the players for the football.
If the participants are inactive, their muscles will be at a high risk of ‘pulling’ and their balance could also be poor. The person leading the session should be very patient with the players when completing the dynamic stretches and should be aware of their balance. Encourage players to work in pairs and lean on each other for support if needed.
Don't Over-complicate the Stretches!
Remember the players are not the Scotland Team. While they need to stretch effectively, they don’t need to complete a professional warm-up and may not be able to stretch their legs as far as you’d like them to. Include the stretching in a fun, enjoyable way and be patient!
The person leading the session should demonstrate all stretches and offer support to the players.
Keep the warm-up activities simple and easy to understand and consider warming up the mind too in preparation for the game.
Once warmed up the players should be divided into two teams and a game can commence.
After the session
Stretching After the Football Match
Encourage the players to do static stretches so they cool down and don’t feel too sore the next morning.
Tea, Coffee and a Social
This is probably one of the most valuable parts of the session. The players can socialise, make friends and have a laugh about the game.