As you know, soccer is a big deal in our house. A few seasons ago, my husband stepped up to be the assistant coach of The Monkey’s U8 team. As a left-brained fellow, he has read books about soccer techniques, watched You Tube videos of drills, and done some investigation into coaching strategies. He and the head coach do a great job running a fun but focused practice. Their hard work has paid off in an undefeated season so far.
A few weeks ago, a fellow U8 soccer coach and friend posted a New York Times article to Facebook about the importance of incorporating a warm up routine into team practice in an effort to reduce injury– specifically injury to the ACL. I read the article and then shared it with both the head coach and my husband. (And, because I’m a “safety first” kind of gal, I sent it on to The Bear’s soccer coach, too.) In discussions with all these soccer coaches, we all came to the same conclusion: it’s easy to overlook a warm up routine with kids because they seem so flexible and indestructible.
Although the study noted in the article focuses on older kids, I think there is still value in incorporating a thorough warm up routine for younger kids, too. First of all, exercises like grapevines or side shuffles engage muscles while in lateral movement, and that helps not only the muscles but the neuro-muscular connection as well. For kids still working on gross motor development, this type of movement may be challenging. All the more reason to work on it in a low-pressure, warm up scenario!
I also think there is value in getting kids used to warming up before exercise. While they may not need to go through a specific routine, it can be a good way to help kids focus and come together as a team, especially before a game. Also, a warm up routine gets kids in the habit of doing these exercises so that when it does become important– especially in fast-growing bodies of adolescents– they already expect to do them.
While I’m excited to see quality research focused on kids and exercise, it’s a shame that it has to be about such a serious injury as ACL rupture. Hopefully, if we can encourage our kids’ coaches to incorporate a warm up routine into the team culture, we can work together to reduce these incidents.
Good health and great happiness to you!