In the nine years I have been writing this blog I have written many times about the role of warm-up. Despite that I continue to be amazed at the lack of understanding about this crucial part of the training process. There is so much more to this than meets the eye on first glance. Last week I had a phone call from a colleague (One of the best in sport – he has worked with some of the most high profile teams & individuals of our generation). His pre- soccer training warm-up was evaluated by a representative of a national federation (Best unnamed, it could be one of many) and it was rated poor and ineffective because it did include the soccer ball! I almost dropped the phone – how ridiculous. The purpose was to warm-up for soccer, not to play soccer to warm-up, a subtle but very important distinction.
This just underscores a huge problem in soccer (and a myriad of other sports). Soccer is plagued by injuries at all levels of play and varying degrees of severity. The trend is to do more with the ball including warm-up, the theory is that more touches will produce better players faster. Injuries have increased there is an epidemic of niggling groin, hamstring and calve strains that result in missed practices and matches. The solution is really quite simple and it what my colleague was given a poor evaluation for – Warm-up to play don’t play to warm-up! 10 to 15 minutes of an active warm-up that emphasizes all planes of motion in multiple directions based on fundamental movements on their feet (no rolling around on the ground) gradually building in intensity will get the job done. Then and only then introduce the ball. The result will be quality ball touches and a reduction of injuries. In some ways it is just too easy because it is common sense. The clear message is: warm-up to play do not play to warm-up. Other sports take heed this is not just a soccer phenomenon.