Thoughts on How to Warm-up Children properly

It’s obvious: Before doing practice you should always warm-up properly. When coaching my U14 team, they usually think of warming-up as being an unnecessary chore, therefore they seldom do it on their own. Instead they wait until I tell them to.

Children want to learn why they have to do something the coaches tells them, so this is a great chance to combine theory and practical experience. Make use of the childrens need to move and prepare the warm-up with small games and competitions.

In general, the benefits of warming up kids are the same as warming up grown-ups:

1. Within a very short time the whole body can prepare from calmness to being able to get into drills.
2. The cardiovascular system adapts to the load and pumps blood through the whole body.
3. This in turn will help supply the musculature with blood and will raise metabolism.
4. The ability to cope with the over all load on the musculoskeletal system improves tremendously.

All in all the body is much better prepared for the upcoming practice and risk of injury is highly reduced. Depending on the age of the players, explain to them in short and easy to understand words why they are warming-up and how the selected drills will benefit them.

During warm-up keep other aspects in mind, too:

– Warm-ups should be diversified and suitable for children. Make them have fun and sacrfice the performance factor at this time.
– Children have a lot of energy and when they have to sit too long, they are getting nervous. Therefore don’t put on the break for their urge to be active.
– Apply warm-up games with low to medium intensity. This will help prepare for the upcoming strain when using drills.
– Put emphasis on team bonding. Strengthen the feeling of togetherness and integrate players on the team, which are less skilled.
– Choose games and drills according to the topics you’d like to handle in the particular practice. As I’ve experienced, children don’t like to integrate typical exercises for a specific technique. To add some more of a fun factor use funny names for your drills.

Working with children is a little more challenging than working with grown-ups. It has always been my goal to emphasize having fun in doing sports and being an active, because this will help children in their future life. Nowadays not enough is done in schools to educate about fitness and health. Instead, practices are strucutured based on outdated principles.

Scientific tests have shown that the adaptability of the human body during childhood and adolescence is by far most developed. The skills acquired during this time are the physiological basis which stay a lifetime. Not only aspiring athletes should take advantage of this, but all children. It helps prevent overweight as well as numerous secondary diseases which are caused by lack of regular exercise. The demand exists … this is beyond question. According to the Ministry of Health here in Germany, one in five children has overweight. With teenagers it is even one in three, with the numbers constantly rising.

This should be reason enough to help our youth to warm-up properly and set a good foundation for their health!

Picture credit: air21Creative Commons Attribution

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