Answer this one question;
‘How many kids under the age of 12 have you seen pull up with a hamstring injury?’
The answer should be, not many. In-fact, even right up to the ages of 15/16 you shouldn’t be having many youngsters on your injury list.
The only child I have ever come across with a hamstring injury that young was my younger brother. But I would put that down to the fact my Dad used to expect way too much of him.
Are you putting your players through too much stress?
My point of that question was not to tell you to stop doing warm ups – in fact I would never recommend that – but it was rather to highlight that warm ups don’t only decrease the risk of injury.
In fact, the importance of warming up go way beyond just injury prevention – especially for your younger players.
Telling your players “you must warm up so you don’t get injured’ isn’t enough.
At the start of most sessions, I sit the kids down and talk to them about why the body needs to warm up, and how the blood moves round the body to our working muscles.
I have year 1’s (5 and 6 years olds) that can now tell me;
- What happens to their body when they start warming up
- That warming up reduces their risk of injury
- They are building a habit for life
- They are getting their brains ready for training
Let’s explore those basic but highly important reasons in a little more detail;
Importance of Warming Up: Reason #1:
We say… ‘Injury Prevention’
They Say…. ‘So we don’t get injured!’
I’ve explained to them the ‘elastic band theory’, where if you pull an elastic band too quickly it will snap, but if they warm it up first then it is less likely to ‘snap’.
This is where most coaches stop when they start talking about warming up. But, as coach you have the responsibility to not only support your player’s technical ability but their psychological development too.
Which brings me to my next point…..
Importance of Warming Up: Reason #2:
We say…. ‘Creating or Building a Habit’
They say…. “so we know what to do when we get big!”
This is the second reason I walk them through. They know that the chances of them getting a serious injury like David Beckham or Wayne Rooney would are very slim, but they also know if they don’t get into the habit of warming up now, then they might ‘forget’ or become lazy when they get older …… (That’s when I become a little more animated and they all start laughing at me)
As a coach in your respective field, it’s imperative that you start to help your players build positive habits.
I’m sure you could list numerous bad habits you have!
Our responsibility of being a coach is that we support our players in their mental wellbeing as well as their physical wellbeing.
And while we’re talking about forgetting and being lazy, that’s where our 3rd reason for warming up comes in…..
Importance of Warming Up: Reason #3:
We say…. ‘To get our brains ready’
They say…. “To get our brains ready!”
…or do you?
I cannot stress the importance of a proper warm up to engage a young brain. In my opinion for kids under the ages of 12 – certainly under the ages of 10 – preparing the mind is the best outcome you can have after doing a warm up.
Kids get bored and lose interest very quickly – a great maximum participation warm could pull their minds back on task.
Take this example.
You work in a school. You’re coaching various different sports throughout the day to different age groups.
You have a class for an hours PE straight after lunch time. Throughout the whole morning the kids have been doing English and Maths, and they’ve just spent the last hour outside running around. How do you get them to engage in your session, and ultimately have fun?
Well firstly you already have the upper hand, as a lot of the children will already be looking forward to PE.
But even the most motivated kids will struggle at times. So the best way I have found is to do a game I know they all love – individual dodge ball normally does the trick.
Now the key to getting this right is to introduce this or another fun high intensity game and the rules long before you want to start using it as an engagement tool.
I have found that, by doing games such as individual dodge ball as a warm up before going into my main session the concentration levels of the students are higher.
Now of course this is not always the case, if someone’s going to mess around – they’re going to mess around. There’s nothing you can do about that.
But if you have the kids engaged and having fun they’re more likely listen to what you have to say later on in the session.
Again, it all comes down to fun.
You can use the same technique if you coach within a specific discipline. Take soccer for example.
Chances are you’re coaching at a club level. Your players have been at school all day and now they’re turning up for your training session.
How do manage to get them engaged from the get-go so you can make your training as challenging, engaging and efficient as possible?
Try introducing a super-fun game such as Soccer Tennis.
Go one better and start coaching a specific topic you want to address in your main session to work them in smoothly.
Chances are they won’t even know what you’re doing. But they’ll be learning and you’ll be gaining some serious brownie points – from parents, the players themselves and any coaches who stand and look long enough.
Other examples of fun, engaging games and equipment that can be adapted are;
- Soccer Rebounder Activities
- Ladder Exercises
- Battle Ropes (age depending)
- Reaction Ball Games
- Other Sports to Teach Aspects of Your Game (eg. Handball to teach passing and moving in Soccer)
- SAQ Activities
What are you warming up?
If your sessions are dead boring, you’ll find it pretty hard to keep yourself smiling let alone your players.
So if you’re not enjoying the session, there’s a pretty good chance your group won’t be either.
You’re playing a huge role in the development of your players as people who take part in sport AND as young people who are in-fact on their own personal journey in life.
You have the responsibility to support and prepare them as best you can.
Now go out there and support your players in their development in your sport and in their own personal journey too!
Have you got any techniques you use to engage, challenge and keep your player focused throughout your sessions? Share them below!