As games in the area get underway for the spring sports season, I thought it appropriate to talk about warm-ups.
I don't mean stretching and jogging, although those are important, too. I am referring to the time after the stretching and jogging -- the several minutes before every game when players are supposed to be practicing the skills that they will actually use during the game.
I can usually tell from watching warm-ups how organized a coach is. And don't get me wrong, just because a coach is organized doesn't mean the team is going to play well once the games starts.
I've seen plenty of teams not warm up well and win, and plenty of ones that do, lose. But a good coach always makes sure his team is organized during warm-ups, regardless of how the individual players look.
A good warm-up should have the following elements:
It should be rehearsed. A team needs to go through the warm-up during practice from start to finish. You can't expect your players, at any age, to suddenly do a warm-up correctly just because it's time to do it before the game.
The players should look like they know what they are doing during the warm-up drills. I'd suggest using drills that you've used during practices and that the players know very well. They might miss a pass or shot, but it shouldn't be because they are in the wrong spot during the warm-up drill (or not paying attention).
Every player should be active. There is no reason why your outfielders can't be having a catch while the infielders have ground balls hit to them. There shouldn't be 10 people standing in line waiting to shoot on a goal. Try having three or four in the shooting line while the rest are passing to each other. In other words, keep your kids moving the entire warm-up period. Stations are great for warm-ups.
The players should be practicing skills they will use during the game. There is no reason for your goalie to be shooting on goal or for your catcher to be shagging fly balls.
Make sure you allot enough time to accomplish everything you want during warm-ups. The time to warm up varies from sport to sport -- and sometimes game to game, depending on the schedule and how long the game before yours lasts. Have a plan in place for warm-ups for different time periods. You should have an effective warm-up planned for 10, 20 and 30 minutes, and be ready to implement any one of them at a moment's notice.
Last but not least, keep the warm-up fun. The more fun it is, the more enthusiastic the kids will be to do it and more likely to do it correctly. And the more enthusiastic they are, most likely the better they will look.
Which, in turn, makes you look like an organized coach.
Send columnist Jon Buzby email at JonBuzby@hotmail.com and follow him @youthsportsbuzz on Twitter.