I knew that title would draw some attention. Now that we’ve got it, let’s talk a bit about warming up and cooling down. It’s pretty much known by all in the sports world that proper warm up and
cool down are essential to the health of the young athlete. Yet, many forgo the warm up and most neglect the cool down. Both can have significant impact with injury prevention and performance, they should be done in all types of weather, but the warm up of a cold body in a cold environment is especially significant. A young body is under consistent stress from growth and development.
All kids are on their own level of development so will have varying degrees of mobility and flexibility. But tight muscles, tendons (tissue attaching muscle to bone), and ligaments (tissue attaching bone to bone) will lead to injury if not warmed up before activity.
The basics of the warm up are intended to increase the core body temperature, increase blood flow, and get those tissues ready for bursts of activity. Warm up should last between 10-30 minutes and begin with “dynamic stretching.” That is, the stretching of muscles, tendons, and ligaments during movement. Examples would be lunge walk, high knees, calf walk, and backwards skipping. Remember, those players who’ve been on the bench for the first half and are used as subs, should be warming up on the side line before checking in. Go to the link below for examples of dynamic stretching on video.
The cool down is important too. This will help the young athlete to remain flexible, remove lactic acid (the stuff that causes muscle soreness), and realign muscle fibers. Start with a slow jog for a few minutes then move to stretches. This is the time to conduct “static stretching” that is stretching of muscles while staying in one place. Include the muscle groups that are used for the event, e.g. soccer players should focus on legs, torso, hips.
When stretching, don’t bounce with the stretch, instead, stretch with a slow steady movement and hold for several seconds. With the cold on us now, it is very important to plan for those warm ups and cool downs. But always, Play Hard and Play Safe.