This weeks Coaching Corner written by Ronan Keane.
Warm Up and Warm Down
The goal of every coach in the country is to get the best from his or her players. Training sessions are a coach’s opportunity to prepare them for matches. On match day all coaches want their players to play to their potential. The ability of the coach to warm up their players properly will be vital to this. An effective warm up will allow your team to start quickly and continue to perform right to the end of the match. The advice in this article is most suitable for mature teenagers and adults. It is not necessary to spend time on lengthy warm ups for children and young adolescents. Children can go straight into instant activity without needed a warm up.
First let us look at the purpose of every good warm up. From a physiological point of view, it should elevate heart rate and increase blood flow to all working muscles. The movements that a player will need to perform in the match should be practiced. All warm ups practice running forwards, but how many practice sidestepping, twisting, jumping, striding, running backwards? The next point to consider during warm ups is the number of ball contacts a player receives. It is suggested that a player requires 300 ball contacts before any learning takes place. This means that every player should get at least this many in a warm up. It sound like a huge amount but if players worked in pairs about 10 metres apart striking/kicking and catching they could accumulate this in about 5 minutes. Players getting their eye in are important but we must also try to prepare them mentally. We can do this by playing small sided, conditioned games. Anyone who has watched the Clare senior hurlers warming up will be familiar with these. These games will challenge a players’ decision making, incorporate many of the movements mentioned above and demand a level of concentration similar to the match. The intensities of these games can be increased as the player warms up. The possession game may start at “half intensity”. Players will play the game at half pace and not tackle strongly. This will greatly reduce risk of injury before the game itself. After a few minutes the intensity can be increased, up to and including match intensity for a short duration. It is worth considering position specific activities during the warm up. Players appreciate practicing skills and situations they are likely to be facing;
Goalkeepers should be in goals, practicing catching the ball under their crossbar, shot stopping and puck/kick outs. Midfielders and half forwards could practice long range shooting. Full forward lines could be taking the shots on the goalkeepers. Defender could be putting varying levels of pressure on the attackers while these activities are going on. Free takers should get time to practice. When considering the amount of activity necessary for a proper warm up, it is easy to see why their duration has becoming longer in recent years, and I have not even mentioned stretching!
As mentioned in a previous article, stretching should be dynamic, not static and only take place once heart rate is up and blood flow raised. Different coaches have different preferences on when and how often the team stretch during the warm up. Some like to split up the stretches between warm up activities, others like to go through their entire routine at a certain point. Either is a viable option provided that players have, as mentioned earlier upped their heart rate and increased blood flow to the muscles to be stretched.
A common mistake with coaches is not allowing themselves enough time to complete a comprehensive warm up. They should not be rushed. Players should be eased into them. A warm up that starts at too high an intensity can leave players feeling tired rather than prepared Remember that the goal is to have your team as ready as possibly by throw in. Consider a few other factors. If the day is warm, players do not need as long to warm up. If working with adults, there can be 18 and 38 year olds on your panel. Older players may need a little longer to warm up. There is nothing wrong with following a set routine for your warm up the day of match. Players like variety in warm ups during training sessions, but prefer a routine they know and are happy with the day of a match. The last thing a coach should do the day of a match is introduce some new activity to the warm up that has not previously been practiced. This may lead to confusion in players that, however small, may upset them/interfere with their concentration.
Now let us look at best practice after a match or training; the warm down. The value of warm down has become increasing apparent in recent years. Warm downs are essentially the first step toward preparation for the next session or match. At the end of activity there is a short period of time where recovery can be greatly enhanced. Because players feel tired, the warm down can be neglected. A warm down with many long, static stretches will greatly reduce risk of injury and feelings of tightness and soreness afterwards. This condition is known as D.O.M.S. (delayed onset muscle soreness). Players should begin to take in fluids as early as possible, ideally before they leave the field and certainly before showering and changing etc. A healthy meal shortly afterward is important also.