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Warming up to the Warm up: Three Things Coaches Should Know about Preparing Athletes for Play

Coaches are responsible for many different aspects of the youth sport experience. On a typical day, most coaches are expected to organize practices that prepare kids for games, teach sports skills, and promote important lessons like teamwork and sportsmanship.

Youth sports coaches are also tasked with keeping track of key statistics, communicating with parents, fostering inclusiveness, and ensuring the health of their players by using proper protective equipment and following current safety guidelines.

While all these responsibilities are important, leading a proper warm-up for youth sports participants is among the most important. Interestingly, the practice of preparing for athletic activities by warming up can be traced back thousands of years. Athletes in ancient Greece routinely received massages and performed gentle full body movements before they began exercising. Similarly, Roman gladiators completed exercises that became progressively more intense at the start of their training sessions. In many cases, these athletes were supervised by professional trainers to make sure they were prepared for the demands of their upcoming activities – a situation not too different from modern-day sports in America.

Unfortunately, warm-ups are often shortened or skipped altogether to allow enough time for other activities. Additionally, most coaches are not trained to properly lead a warm-up and rely on outdated and ineffective routines. Sometimes players lead the warm-up themselves – greatly limiting the effectiveness of the activity. Here are three important things that youth sports coaches should know about warm-ups for their athletes:

The purpose of warm-up is to prepare athletes’ bodies to handle upcoming workloads

Training load is a hot topic in sports these days. From kids playing sports for the first time to elite professional athletes, sports medicine experts have developed guidelines around the amount of time and the intensity of their training. Beginning a training session with exercises that increase joint mobility, promote blood flow to key muscle groups, and stimulate nerves that control important body functions like balance and coordination allows athletes to gradually prepare – both physically and mentally – for the workload that follows. A proper warm-up is an important strategy to successfully manage training load.