The ‘Cooldown’ after the game!
Over the last number of years, I’ve truly come to realise how important the cool-down is not just for the players but for everyone involved and the sooner you start to do it, the sooner you create the habit and standard for as long as the kids play sport. There is no actual fact that cooling down can help prevent muscle soreness and injury. It was once believed that muscle soreness resulted from the build-up of lactic acid, which could be dissipated with a cool down. However, this theory has been disproved, and there exists no other research to suggest that cooling down can prevent sore muscles. However, there are some benefits and even if it’s just for building team cohesion and calming everyone down after a game. It allows us all to walk away calmly and together as a TEAM!
Let’s look at some of the reasons why?
- STRETCHING – is to restore muscle length, so static stretching is the key after the game. Research has shown that 30 second slow static stretches are the way to go (Ayala et al 2010). Two to three repetitions. Holding Each stretch for 10 to 20 seconds and breathing throughout. But, they should always listen to their body and if they feel an extra stretch or two of a tighter than normal muscle group is what is needed, then do that. The body rarely lies, pain is the body’s way of telling you that something is wrong and it knows what it likes. Make sure that they stretch all the muscles that were used in the particular exercise. Stretching shouldn’t be painful, but you should feel the tension in the muscle being stretched. Stretching when the muscles are warm, as they are after a workout, can improve their flexibility over time, which in turn helps prevent injury.
- FOAM ROLLER – The Foam Roller has become very popular amongst young footballers and it may also be very helpful at restoring your post-exercise muscle length.
- MENTAL COOLDOWN – It’s important we let their mind calms down. Players might be angry after a loss or how they performed. Relaxation techniques can be a useful tool to help them with this, but even taking a few minutes to slowly cool down, some deep breathing or even just closing their eyes and sitting for a moment can help them reflect upon their performance or to mentally recover for the rest of the afternoon, session or game.
- TEAM COHESION – Finally, the cooldown is a great way for the players to talk about the game and reflect on how they did and what they need to do to get better. It may not even be a chat about the game but about interests and this is another opportunity for the players to get to know one another.
- GREATS STANDARDS – By doing a cooldown with your team you are setting a standard and creating habits for the future. You may have some players that are playing other sports and this would be of huge benefit to them also. This does not need to be done by the coaches, I generally get the captain to take the cooldown and it works really well.
So, from the youngest ages, you can create the habit but I especially find it useful for the pre-teens and beyond to help with flexibility, to mentally cooldown, to build team cohesion and set standards for postgame cooldown, along with all the other benefits.
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