Keeping our athletes physically prepared for the next day's training or match is a top priority in our program. As a coaching staff, our daily practice planning includes an emphasis on muscle recovery and preparation. We also spend time educating our team on how to care of their bodies so that they are ready to perform each day.
That said, our advice is remarkably simple. We don't have any high-tech gadgets or a team of trainers at our immediate disposal. We don't have a team doctor ready to swoop in or a series of ice baths nestled away in a gorgeous training room. In essence, we are a bit "old school," or maybe just a normal public school.
We employ a consistent approach driven at keeping our players stretched, iced, hydrated, and educated. If we work to prevent sore muscles and all the smaller injuries, we thoroughly believe we can head off larger, more substantial problems as well as put forth our best, most well training athletes.
Here's how we do it.
1. Dynamic warm-up: Normally designed to fit the movements used during the training session, we target the muscles we know will have to work hard. Shocking muscles into action causes stress and trauma, thus resulting in soreness or worse in the days to follow. Never underestimate the importance of a great warm-up.
2. Hydrate: Before, during, and after practice. The players drink water consistently, as we need them to maintain hydration and not go through the spikes of deficiency and excess.
3. Cool down: An easy cool down focusing on the muscles worked and decreasing the heart rate is the way all practices must conclude. Slow the pace down and let them begin recovery.
4. Stretch: Some people argue that this is unimportant, but we see it as a must. After the cool down, we do some static stretching to elongate the muscles and prevent soreness.
5. Ice: Players who experience any soreness or have a history of injury hit the ice after training. Whether from the ice machine at the school or at home, they spend an hour icing down.
6. Patience: When we introduce high intensity training or new movements, we blend it in slowly. Never do we drop a huge new expectation on top of them.
7. Yoga: Every two weeks, normally after a rough streak of tough training or multiple matches, we bring in a yoga instructor who does a forty-five minute recovery session with the team. This is incredibly helpful, and the players love it.
8. Cross-training: We step outside of the soccer routine and build in other activities. Doing so lets us hit other smaller supportive muscles that aren't readily addressed while playing soccer. This generates balance in the body.
Overall, we try to be consistent and preventative. Avoiding muscle soreness lets the kids feel and perform better each day. Since we started to have a focus on these ideals, we have heard fewer complaints and seen a small reduction in injuries. Can't complain about that.