When I was growing up I didn’t know the importance of a good soccer warm up & stretch. I thought it was something we did just to look more organized or something haha. But if I knew then what I know now, my body would have had less injuries for sure! Here in this blog post I want to share with you my knowledge that I have racked up over the years of playing as a youth, college and pro player. Plus all I have experienced while training youth and adults over the past 9 years, averaging 20-25 private lessons per week.
Using technology to warm up & cool down
Nobody likes to feel pain, and most of us end up learning how to prevent it through our own experiences of growing older. Today’s generation can learn much faster than I did growing up simply because of technology. With education such as this and social media, people are able to get knowledge much faster. You just have to make sure it’s the right knowledge, not just some so-called expert because I tell you there are lots of those. But some tech people have no clue about a proper soccer warm up, so make sure you do your research.
Number 1 injury prevention is warming up and stretching
The number 1 way to prevent injury is warming up & stretching. But you need both for this to work, not just one or the other. Some people think that just stretching is good enough, but actually warming up is what I would choose over stretching if I had to choose one. So many older youth players and adults pull their quad because they start shooting before they warm up. The quad is what takes the load when shooting so make sure you take care of your body.
Importance of cool downs for soccer players
The first time I ever heard of a cool down was my first year playing pro soccer. I was drafted in the 5th round of the MLS Superdraft by FC Dallas and after our first session the coaches had us ‘cool down’. At that point I was like wow! Now in college I had one of the best college coaches in America in Butch Lauffer at West Texas A&M University. We would stretch after practice which was very professional, especially coming from high school / Club soccer in Midland, TX. The difference from college to pro at FC Dallas was the ‘cool down’. I was lucky to play pro soccer for 7 years and got to experience 17 Countries as a player, playing, training or tryouts with at least 14 different pro teams. From top to bottom the MLS does it right! They are so professional and anyone will tell you that even the big European stars that come over. That’s one reason they stay for several years and recommend their friends come over.
What is a soccer cool down before stretch?
Now like I said in college we did stretch after practice but that is different from a cool down. A cool down is when you finish practice, the team gets together and basically does that exact same exercises as a warm up. So side to sides, high knee, butt kicks and all those top 5-10 exercises you see in a warm up. The only difference is it’s much lighter. The jog is really slow and the movements are too. Then once you do all the exercises you stretch. Most people know how to do a soccer warm up, but not too many know about a proper cool down. Now you know!
Soccer training has to be the right mix to prevent injuries
Some people think that playing too much will cause overuse injuries. I have trained some youth athletes for 7 years straight, week after week. They play 2-3 times with their club and then they come to me once a week. These players don’t get injuries, and I think a lot has to do with genetics too. But coming to me or a private trainer who knows what they are doing will not cause injury. As long as the player is not doing too much of the same thing over and over. There needs to be the right mix of training. Example, if someone is doing power shooting for 40 mins straight week after week they are probably going to pull a quad or hip flexor. So for my students I work on different skills and also mix it up from stationary light training to more intense drills.
Warm up and stretch is great, but what about ice & rehab?
Once there are injuries, they need to be treated right. Bottom line every parent and player needs to know about R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate). You should be prepared to do this even at a tournament. Which means you need to do all 4 of these for the recover to work right. Best time to rest and ice is the 1st and 2nd day after a full game. The games are what takes the most out of the body. The reason is because players are working 110% trying to dive, stretch, jump for every ball. Not to mention falling down and using muscles you just wouldn’t use in a training session.
Training tips the day before a soccer match
The day before a game is typically a light day, but I remember when I was training with MLS [Major League Soccer] club Kansas City in 2002. The team had a game the next day and Coach Bob Gansler worked us harder that I have ever trained, for a session the day before a game. Coaches know their team and what is needed. So I tell this story so you don’t think that every session the day before a game has to be light. If you are wondering if private lessons the day before are okay, I would say yes. As long as the session is focusing on the right things. If the player is working on finishing from 6-8 yards out using both feet and different methods I would say it’s okay. Also in that session there would need to be stationary skills, not too much running or long distance shooting. Also not too many foot skills because that takes a lot out of the legs.
Just remember to take care of your body. Before you train or play, make sure you get a good warm up and then a stretch. Just don’t stretch too much before a long practice or game. Stretching is key, but it also fatigues the muscles so don’t think that over stretching is going to fix tight muscles. Rest when you need to and know when the best time for everything is. Like anything don’t overdo it.