Warming Up Before a Soccer Game
Soccer Pre-Game Activities
How to Train Soccer Players for Speed
Are You Training Your Players to Be Slow?
Avoid Long, Slow Runs in Soccer Practice - Use Short Sprints to Build Endurance AND to Improve Soccer Speed

Hi SoccerHelp,

In your opinion, what is the best pre-game routine to go through for a high school soccer team?

-Coach B


Hi Coach B,

Here are some ideas for a pre-game routine for a high school team (this would apply to any team age 10 or older):

  1. Light activity such as small groups passing the ball around (2 to 4 passing it around).
  2. I found it counterproductive to do anything that burned up a lot of energy -- it seemed that my players didn't have any extra energy to waste and played better if they were fresh.
  3. I recommend you be sure every player is "hydrated" (have them drink water or Gatorade).
  4. Obviously, spend some time going over your game strategy and assignments.
  5. Stretching -- the following is from the premium article Warming Up and Stretching

Coaches used to believe stretching was good, but an article in the March 2007 issue of Prevention magazine says: "A review of 23 studies found that stretching before an activity damages muscle tissue, which reduces muscle strength and hinders performance. Start each workout by moving your limbs through a full range of motion". Personal trainer Judy Heller is quoted as saying "You want to get the fluid in your joints flowing, so they are well lubricated and move with ease".

The following was copied from the Forum:

I'm a board certified orthopedic surgeon and a large proportion of my practice is sports medicine. I also coach 2 soccer teams (a U-8 boys and a U-10 girls team).

You have to be careful when you read these types of articles (I actually have not read the Prevention article, yet) to be clear about what is known and trends that are showing up in the research. What you guys are saying is, for the most part, becoming the standard. You have to separate out acute stretching from chronic stretching. Acute stretching is what you are talking about when you talk about stretching before an event based on the old adage that stretching before sports prevents injury. Chronic stretching is stretching with workouts (usually after) for the purpose of getting more flexible. It has been assumed that this improves performance and prevents injury. There are multiple specific types of stretching that are not worth going into in this forum.

To date the trends in the research suggest that acute stretching does not prevent injury and can hinder performance (by a small amount) in explosive type sports (soccer is obviously one of these). Some studies suggest it may increase the risk of injury. But, to the best of my knowledge, this is only a few studies and has not been the trend. Again, this has not yet been clearly proven, but the more research that comes out, the more these ideas are supported.

Regarding chronic stretching. The research suggests this appears to improve performance and may prevent injuries. The research is not as extensive as it is on acute stretching. My professional opinion (and that's all it is, for what its worth) is that I cannot imagine that chronic stretching would not help prevent injury. I spend most of my work days ordering physical therapists to stretch patients to get rid of aches and pains. But, again, the jury's still out.

As a side note, kids under about 9 years old generally do not need to stretch. They are all usually very flexible. When puberty starts to kick in and there are growth spurts is when they start to tighten up.

Before games, I don't do the stretching. Still do the lunges and one leg half squats. I also do the stationary and dynamic ball handling drills, but for a shorter period of time. The way I keep the kids interested in this is to have them count out the reps on the strengthening and to continually add new moves to the ball handling drills. They still don't like the warm-ups, but it keeps them from getting bored with them.

Training for Speed -- by the way, are you training your players to be slow? there are a lot of articles that now say that when you train, you need to avoid long, slow runs because they train the muscles for slow runs. You should build endurance thru a series of sprints, NOT by long runs. The "shuttle" sprints might be good. (Start with 10 yards across and back, then 20 yards, then 30, etc.) Make it competitive and time it so you can try to get your players to become faster.

Hope this helps,

David at SoccerHelp