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Prepping Your Athlete for a Spring Season

Although this season may be different in many ways, one thing isn’t changing: making sure athletes are acclimatized. Big word. What does it mean? Getting an athlete’s body prepared for new climates and conditions.

The goal of an acclimatization period in football is to gradually increase heat tolerance and enhance the ability to exercise safely and effectively in warm and hot conditions. Ideally, the process should start at home, at least 14 days prior to the start of the team practices. A gradual increase of intensity over the first week allows for additional acclimatization, especially for those who did not train in the weeks before practice. Though the standard timeline for acclimatization is 10-14 days, this can vary depending on the activity or sport and should meet the needs of the individual athlete.

USA Football teamed up with the sports health experts at NYU Langone to discuss common misconceptions about acclimatization, and the facts that will help you properly prepare your athlete for their new demands.  

  1. FICTION: The process of acclimatization can be rushed or sped up. They’re kids, just send them on out there.
    1. FACT: The body needs time for changes to take place . Accelerating this process is not possible, and can cause harm to the athlete.
  2. FICTION: Kids are bendy and don’t pull muscles. Kids can just go out and start practicing without needing to warm up.
    1. FACT: Children of all ages need to properly warm up with dynamic movements, not static stretching, before starting with intense activities. The warm-up should include every movement that an athlete will be asked to perform in a practice or game. In addition, activities should progressively increase in intensity throughout the warm-up period.
  3. FICTION: Youth football players need to get used to new equipment, so they should start wearing it as soon as practice starts.
    1. FACT: Appropriately adding equipment over time helps athletes get used to wearing it
    2. Football equipment, (i.e., helmets and shoulder pads), trap heat differently than workout clothes and changes an athlete’s ability to dissipate heat.
    3. Wearing light-colored clothes helps athletes to dissipate heat better and should be encouraged in the early training phases.
    4. Football equipment that can be easily removed or loosened (i.e., helmets) should be taken off during breaks to allow athletes’ bodies to cool down.
  4. FICTION: Kids get enough physical activity at school.
    1. FACT: Kids can and should be encouraged to play and be active at home, school and through organized activities.
    2. The CDC recommends that kids ages 6 through 17 get 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day.