I am spending the weekend directing one of our Regional Hot Shot Training Camps. In watching and directing there always seems to be things that strike me as needing attention. Usually the weaknesses present themselves in areas that most simply take for granted. In being a coach that has always preached details makes the difference, I feel this is a message that needs to be driven home more often.
In past blogs I have addressed the importance of a proper warm up and how it sets the pace for training. The benefits of a proper warm up go far beyond just getting the body loose for sports participation. A detailed warm up establishes a standard of excellence from the very moment the training begins. Great warm ups enforce perfection, effort, stylization, and discipline. This carries over to the event training to come later.
Anyone who has ever attended a National Team Training Camp or related TOPS, JO or Elite Developmental Camps at the National Team Training Center in Houston can certainly attest to the emphasis placed on a proper warm up. Any athlete caught slacking during warm up is quickly reminded of the error. It is unacceptable to give less than 100%.
Likewise and for some of the very same reasons, a proper cool down is just as important. During the intensities of training the body is put through the wringer. It endures conditioning, explosive take offs, tough landings and more. When the training session is complete the body teeters on the edge of exhaustion and the muscles are wound tightly. A well directed cool down stretch will help iron out the kinks and aid with the maintenance or improvement of flexibility. Taking the cool down to the ultimate (and many of our national team athletes make this part of their ritual) would include a body flushing massage (this helps rid the body of lactic acid and helps with next day soreness and overall recovery time). It is too bad that most programs do not have the ability to offer after training massages (but then again Moms work real well).
In watching the first day of cool down stretch at this particular camp it was glaringly obvious that cool down time is generally used as chat time for most athletes. That is of course unless there is a standard set by the coaching staff that cool down stretch is an important ending to a productive training session. 5-10 minutes of quality and focused stretch time will go a long way. 15-20 minutes would even be better (that is what we required of Jordyn).
At the end of a training session there may be many obstacles. Staffing situations where coaches have to move to another group or homework and car pool obligations for the athletes often create a rushed feeling at the end of the day. Toss in the fatigue factor and the situation magnifies. This is where leadership (older experienced athlete leaders or coaching directives) become essential. Rushing through cool down creates an unfinished, less than ultimate practice. This is another important detail that makes a difference.