Ramping up for Pre-season Fitness: Chantilly Coaches Clinic

Hey Coaches,

Great session last night, introducing warm ups and pre-season fitness ideas for your players. Special thanks to Mike Jorden’s U-16 Strikers team for being our demo’s and putting on a good show. Here’s a re-cap of the highlights from me and from Mike. (I am going from memory with Mike’s stuff.)

First, ask yourself “what is fitness for the game your kids will play?” (age, gender, competitive level) This will determine how much you ask of them at practice. Find a good fit. Then, schedule time for warm up, skills training and play at every practice.

“Warm up” really has 3 phases:

Gathering  – when they arrive, have something for them to get started with. Otherwise, girls will chat and await instructions. Boys will see how far they can kick it into the woods.

  • A team jog around the field with 30 second “stretch- breaks” at the corners when they’re allowed to chat.
  • Indian chief run. Team jogs the periphery of the field with the person last in line sprinting to the front of the line as the rest shout encouragement (or whatever). Then, the next to last person and the next. They’re done when all players have moved from last to first.
  • Small field keep away or possession play. Put out pinnies, define the space with cones, and let ’em choose sides. Play quick touches. Keep a live ball.

Line/Full Body Warm Up – an organized, focused, consistent team drill performed with perfect form. Do not rush. I showed it in 2 partnered lines. I use this as a diagnostic. You want to see smooth, strong, coordinated movement. Where that’s missing, look for breaks in balance and form. This is where you need extra strength, balance, dynamic training. (Fitness means more than just “run fast”!!)

The key to designing an effective warm-up is building on these basic foundations:

  • Start with simple, low intensity movements and build to larger, high intensity  movements. (walking, jogging….hopping, skipping…leaping, jumping)
  • Include movements in all the directions needed for the game: forward, backward, sideways, angles, pivoting and rotation. Then, introduce change of direction with acceleration. (shuffle, turn and sprint; backpedal, turn and sprint)
  • Warm up each joint through it’s full range of motion. (ankle, knee, hip, trunk, shoulder) Caution: be sure you know how joints are designed to move. Ankles and knees are hinges; hips, trunks and shoulders rotate within sockets.
  • **I recommend: 10-14 paired movements (one going out/one coming back) that players perfect and do before every training and every game. Here’s a sample dynamic warm up: **Emphasize bent knees, staying on the balls of feet:
  • Jog forward
  • Jog backward
  • Slide side (facing right- moving left) NO clicking of heels
  • Slide side (facing right – moving right)
  • Slide forward, alternating right and left diagonal (“wizard of oz”)
  • Drop step (backward “wizard of oz”)
  • Knee up and out (do as 3-count: step-step-knee up and out, results in alternating legs)
  • Step kick to opposite hand (do as 3 count as above) (keep body upright: foot lifted to touch suspended hand)
  • Skip, using arms
  • Butt kicks
  • Carioca left with emphasis high step across (1 – 2-3-4 and repeat)
  • Carioca right (1 – 2-3-4)
  • Sprint to quick, multi-step stop
  • Sprint to quick, multi-step stop

Ramp it Up Warm up – add the ball and get their hearts working and their bodies moving faster. I take a skill-drill or a fitness-drill and make it into a game that requires movement and competition – either for time or with other players.

  • Serve and volley circle (Wendy)- players outside serve balls to players coming to them “asking” for the ball. (Make this timed for fitness if they are already skilled, or slow it down for skill work. Moving off the ball makes it game-like.)
  • Musical rings (Wendy) – put down rings or cones, one for each player, they have to dribble to on your signal, and take one away each time. You can let “out” players return after they complete a designated number of juggles. (Define a larger space outside the rings for their dribbling to add fitness. Spread out the remaining rings to encourage bigger dribbling. Compress them to encourage physical challenge.)
  • Box drill with partner toss (Mike) – player in box controls the toss, touches it back to serving partner and sprints around numbered cones. (Condition movement or not depending on training desire)
  • Cone course shuffle and sprint (Mike) – pure fitness (a larger version of cones used for line drill.) One line of players moves through course of matching cones. Can shuffle, sprint, back pedal, pivot. Encourage good form, sinking hips with knees bent for stronger push off at change of direction. (Mike’s cue: nose over knee)

Fitness (aerobic challenge or physical demand) can be added to any part of your training.

  • Neutral players (or one team on/one team off) provide automatic interval training. Design your intervals for your team goals. Gauge the physical demand by asking for their Rate of Perceived Exertion. (RPE) (Scale of 1-10: 1 = couch potato, 10 = sprint for game winning goal.)
  • Scrimmage (Mike) – small sided, changing conditions. Unlimited touch. Unlimited touch but tagged between waist and neck is a turnover. Sprint around nearest cone on coach’s signal.
  • Lane fitness (Mike) – 4 lines, 1 each with cones at 40, 30, 20, 10 yards. Sprint around cone in your lane. Return to line, perform 5 reps of a designated exercise (push ups, sits ups, plyometrics/ball jumps) then move to next lane.
  • Shooting (Mike) – 4 lines sprint to equal distance cone, the look for Coach to serve in to a player. Play 2 v 2 with offside, GK defends.

There is time to do all this, but you must be organized with a practice plan. Stick to the number of minutes designated for each section of practice. Build their fitness gradually as the season nears. No pain, no gain is NOT RIGHT for kids.

Here are some links on the Fit2Finish site you might find helpful:
Dynamic warm up and stretching
Heading/Concussion prevention
Using RPE to prevent Overtraining
Save the Ankles

Thanks for investing in your kids!


Ramping up for Pre-season Fitness: Chantilly Coaches Clinic — 2 Comments

  1. To improve the effectiveness of your stretches, adjust the amount of time you hold your stretches to account for your age. Why? As you age, your muscles lose pliability, so you need to spend more time stretching them. The recommended duration for people under 40 years old is 30 seconds, while people over 40 years old should hold stretches for twice as long.

    • Thanks fitness program. Our muscles certainly do lose pliability as we age and sustained stretching will do us good. We were always taught to recommend 30-60 seconds. That’s a wide range.

      The challenge with our young athletes is that frequently they are not stretching at all. Or if they are, they are stretching before an event. The purpose for their (youth) stretching is muscle recovery.The jury is till out I think about whether this also will prevent soreness. If I can get them to hold a stretch for 30 whole seconds, it is miraculous! They’re in a hurry to get to their next event of the day.

      The purpose for the older athlete is developing and sustaining elasticity in their muscles (along with recovery). That requires a longer stretch – of a warmed muscle – as you point out. We (ahem, the over 40 crowd) tend to be too much in a hurry too.

      Thanks for writing!