Don’t Waste Your Warm Up
The real value of conducting a warm up with kids prior to a practice session is performance related, but it’s not physical.
The result may manifest itself physically – through better performances – but this will primarily stem from the psychological benefits of an engaging, fun, active start to a session.
In other words we are warming up their minds by the way we direct them to move their bodies. We physically move them, with the aim of mentally moving them.
The warm up presents a prime opportunity to set up the mood and the subsequent success of the rest of your session. Don’t waste it.
Focus Beyond The Physical
When it comes to grass roots community youth sports, I feel that a warm up is not as significant a factor in injury reduction or in physical performance improvement as it may be in higher performance sport. (For example, how often do we see kids warm up prior to tearing around at free play, with no ill-effects?). The warm up is, however, crucial for the effect it has on the kids’ subsequent engagement in the practice session.
Over and above the intent to physically prepare the body, I feel that the primary warm up focus of a youth sports coach should be to put the kids in a good, cohesive mood and excited for the rest of the session. The warm up should be used to get the kids on your side; to connect them with you and connect them with each other.
Coaching kids is about so much more than just the physical preparation and development. Your warm up should reflect this.
The First Chapter
Think of the warm up as the first riveting chapter in the session’s story. We want to grab the kids’ attention and draw them in so that they are eager to hear more and find out what comes next.
Just like a good book, the warm up needs to set the scene and prime the athletes for what is to come. It needs to transition the kids from their own world into the coach’s. It needs to link to the rest of the story to come.
We want to make our warm ups like that page-turning, “unputdownable” book that is so engrossing that the reader can’t stop reading it.
What It Looks Like
A really good warm up that will prime the kids for the upcoming session is:
The activity may be competitive, cooperative, interactive or a combination of these things.
You should see smiles.
The kids have to try. They need to exert some effort to participate.
It features something new, original or unusual.
There is lots of movement and very little to no standing around.
Everyone can get involved and no one “goes out” or gets left out.
It provides the chance for kids to connect and cooperate – as a group, with partners and/or in teams.
The activities actually have a planned, desired intent.
Can you think of anything other features of an engaging warm up?
Follow Up Task
Reflect on the way you warm up groups of kids. Do you pay enough attention to engaging the kids? Do you focus enough on the psychological benefits? Do you actively use it to set up the rest of your session?
What Your Favourite Activity To Include In A Warm Up?
Share some of your best warm up tips by leaving a comment/reply or by using the contact details below.
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Darren Wensor is a sports development professional, coach educator, specialist coach of young athletes and founder of the blog coachingyoungathletes.com. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Anchor or via email.