I still see youth soccer teams doing the old style of warming up by stretching. This type of stretching is called “static stretching” because there is little or no movement.
There is a place for static stretching for youth soccer. However, it is not the way for kids to warm-up.
A good warm-up for kids should do three things:
1. Get the muscles ready to play.
2. Improve flexibility and range of motion.
3. Simulate movements used in the game.
4. Provide some physical, skill or mental benefit for improvements.
Dynamic warm-ups provide the three benefits. First, because there is movement it warms up the body and the muscles.
For very young players, flexibility and range of motion are not an issue. However, many players 9 years old and over (certainly teenagers) have tight muscles and low range of motion. By improving range of motion and flexibility athletes can prevent injuries as well as improve performance.
By using movements that are similar to a game, young athletes get extra repetitions in gaining neurological and muscular benefits. For instance, doing leg swings is similar to kicking a ball. Twenty leg swings off of both legs improves balance and strength. It also improves kicking.
The fourth benefit is that it provides coaching and teaching opportunities. Practice time is extremely precious. By using warm-ups as a teaching time you make it much more efficient.
Here are five soccer drill warm-ups which are dynamic, simulate soccer movements and are fun to do. There are also plenty of variations to keep it interesting and add challenges.
Use some of these movements every day. Create your own. Mix things up to keep the kids guessing and interested. Choose a short distance; five to twenty yards.
Warm-ups should take five to ten minutes maximum. Then they are ready to move on to any activity and more intense work.
Warm-up is a critical part of every practice. It prepares the body and the mind for the rest of the practice. By using dynamic warm-ups your kids and team will be better prepared physically…and mentally.
Coach Ron Usher is a child fitness expert. He shows parents, coaches and teachers how to improve kids fitness and have fun at the same time. For more information, on soccer tips and drills be sure to read his blog at www.athleticskillsforsoccer.com.