The Coach Diary

Stretching and it’s benefits..

Currently I coach a u12s team and from memory this is the age group where kids start to get injuries. Already at this early stage we have 2-3 players with groin and hamstring strains. I would never do any static stretching before training and/or a match. I have always done a warm up with the ball followed by dynamic stretching and finishing with static at the end. When FCB’s Albert Benaiges came to Dublin in 2011, he spoke about the benefits of Dynamic Stretching before a game and Static after it.

Warming Up

It’s important to warm up your body before any physical activity. Warming up goes a long way toward preparing the body for exercising, both physically and mentally. It also helps prevent injuries. Dynamic stretching is an important part of this process.

The term “warm-up” describes many light-aerobic and cardiovascular activities, which are separate from stretching. (Stretching works best when performed after warming up.) When you warm up, you are literally warming up the temperature of both your body and your muscles. Never stretch if you haven’t warmed up first.

Warming up helps with many things:

  • Increases your heart and respiratory rate.
  • Boosts the amount of nutrients and oxygen delivered to your muscles.
  • Prepares the body for a demanding workout.
  • Makes it easier to burn calories.
  • Extends your workout and match fitness.

Different types of Warm-Ups

You can use many types of warm-up activities to prepare your body for a match. Often a warm-up activity is simply the activity you are about to do but at a slower pace. For example, if you’re about to go for a brisk run, warm up with a light jog, and if you’re going to go for a swim, do a couple of slow freestyle warm-up laps, if you’re about to play a football game do game related exercises and pre match drills.

Only after this light warm-up, which should last about 5-10 minutes, should you attempt to stretch and I don’t think static stretching is any use before a game. Stick to Dynamic before and static after.


Stretching used to be considered the main activity before a workout and you would always see teams do stretching before a game. That has all changed now. Stretching is still a beneficial activity prior to working out, but only after you have sufficiently warmed up and studies have shown that DYNAMIC is better than STATIC before a game. The reason for this is that stretching cold muscles can directly contribute to pulled and torn muscles. It’s also now known that stretching is very important after a workout as well and players/teams should always do at least 5-10 minutes cool down. This is the answer to reducing injuries throughout the team.

Stretching properly may reduce muscle injuries and provides these benefits:

  • An increase in flexibility and joint range of motion
  • Correct exercise posture
  • Relaxed muscles
  • Better sports coordination

Stretching has to be done right to have benefits, though.

Here are some common tips on stretching properly:

Stop if it hurts. Stretching should never hurt. If you have reached a point in your stretch where it hurts, relax to where it feels comfortable and hold the stretch.

Maintain each stretch for 1030 seconds. Holding a stretch for any less won’t sufficiently lengthen the muscle. Stretch the muscles gradually and don’t force it. Avoid bouncing. Bouncing while stretching may damage the muscle you are stretching. This damage may even cause scar tissue to form. Scar tissue tightens muscles and can get in the way of flexibility.

Remember to breathe. Breathing is a necessary part of any workout, including stretching. Relax and breathe slowly.

To increase flexibility include all muscles groups in your stretching routine: From shoulders, back, thighs, calves and arms.

Practice equality. Even if you are a righty, it doesn’t mean that you should neglect the left side of your body. Make sure you stretch both sides equally, so all of your muscles are evenly ready for action.

When playing soccer, the warm up should be game related. Include all the actions of kicking, striking, passing, jumping, shorts bursts, side steps, moving backwards etc. The same is true for stretching. These types of stretches are known as sports-specific stretches, and they focus on the muscles that are used for your particular sport.

Children under the age of 10 merely need to do light jogging and stretches to get ready to play. However, players above U-10 who don’t prepare to play with warm-up drills before a game risk poor play on the field and even injury.

Cooling Down After Your Workout

The same way you have to gradually slow down either your bike or your car, you need to slow down your body after a workout or exercise: 5-10 minutes of slowed-down, easy activities will go a long way in helping your body recover from a workout and will almost certainly prevent you getting a muscle strain.

Cooling down and stretching at the end of a workout help to:

  • Slow your heart rate to a normal speed.
  • Return your breathing to its regular pace
  • Avoid stiffness and soreness of the muscles.
  • Reduce any risk of dizziness and lightheadedness.
  • Relax the muscles.

Keep in mind that players should never be tired after warm-up drills. Players should spend at least twice as much time resting as they do working prior to a match.

Adding a good before-and-after routine to your workout will give you the best chance of avoiding injuries and may even help improve your performance, it will also allow you to play sports for as long as you are injury free and stretching will go along way to helping you stay in Sport. Anyone playing soccer or any sport for that matter should always cool down after any activity.

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