Author: Yves Gege
Warming up is an essential part of sport. If we don’t warm up properly, we won’t train or play effectively, and our risk of injury increases. The question has never been about IF we should warm up, but specifically HOW, and for HOW LONG? What should kids be doing before a practice and a game to optimize their performance, and reduce their injury risk? These are the questions every coach and parent have swimming around their heads when they watch their kids take off on the field, ready to play.
Warm ups do not have to be extremely long to be effective. Kids don’t need to spend 30 minutes prepping to play, but they do need to use 10 minutes effectively.
Running up and down the field, or a lap or two. Any type of aerobic activity to get them breathing a little heavier: jumping jacks, relay race, make it fun.
We want you to veer away from sitting and holding stretches for 1-2 minutes before play. Studies show that doing more dynamic stretches immediately prior to play can improve performance as opposed to static stretches. In soccer, football, or any spring sport your child may be participating in, they are not holding a static stretch while on the field or in middle of a game, but instead their muscles are contracting and actively stretching. We want to prepare their bodies appropriately for their specific sport. While static stretching can be beneficial post performance as a cool down, it may negatively impact performance if it is used prior to playing. Some examples of dynamic stretching include: squats, walking lunges, Frankensteins, single leg dipping bird, bear crawls, crab walks.
Going off the concept of preparing their bodies appropriately for the activities ahead, sport specific movement preparation should be the last portion of a well-rounded warm up. If the sport is soccer, include some technical drills and soccer movements, for example: soccer taps, cone weaving, defensive back shuffles, sprints, etc. If the sport is football, include some routes, tuck jumps, tackle drills, etc. These lists are not comprehensive and can be adapted to the specific sport at play, but should generally include movements that the athlete will perform during practice/a game.
It as simple as this: mix it up. Encourage your kid/athlete to play multiple different sports or engage in a different physical activity outside of their main sport. Often parents, coaches and athletes think that specialization at a young age will lead to improved performance, when it might be exactly the opposite. In an article in Redmond Reporter, a physical therapist discusses overuse injuries in youth athletes. More than 5 million injuries happen to youth athlete each year, and over 50% of them are overuse injuries. One-sport athletes are the most prone to these injuries, due to their lack of diversity with movement. Encouraging youth athletes to diversify their sport choice can lead to decreased risk of injury, improved overall athleticism, and a skill set that allows for more universal performance.