It’s no secret that winters in the U.K are pretty miserable 90% of the time, and that those long, dark months coincide with the middle of most of our sporting seasons. So, preparing for exercise during this time isn’t as simple as a grabbing a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, it involves sensible planning to ensure that children get the most out of their time out on the pitch and avoid freezing at all costs – so stay prepared with our winter training tips.
It’s not as easy as just layering up and wearing gloves, though, as you should always take the conditions into consideration when planning your sessions. The cold brings an increased risk of injury and any contact definitely hurts more when muscles are contracting and getting tighter. On top of this, standing around in the cold is not fun, so it would be easy for participants to lose interest and avoid getting involved.
To counter the negatives, we’ve come up with a handy guide of winter training tips on how to continue to get the most out of sessions whatever the weather. Ultimately, the aim has to be maintaining enjoyment levels for children and lower the risk of injury, so read on for some key winter training tips…
- When the body is cold, there is an increased risk of injury – not to mention the lack of enjoyment if the children are freezing cold and losing interest. Children are particularly susceptible to the cold, so it’s important to keep the body moving and the blood flowing. Getting the warm up right sets the session moving in the right direction from the start and secures focus from the players – essential to maintain enthusiasm. To go along with our winter training tips, we’ve written a guide to warms ups and why they’re not to be avoided, which you can read here.
- Although tempting, the worst thing you could do is have players form lines and queues waiting to shoot at goal or take a touch. If a player takes a touch and then has to wait for twenty others to take a touch before getting another go, they’re going to cool down and lose interest so keep your sessions sharp and pacey to maintain body temperature and focus. An added benefit increased movement is that players can take multiple touches in a short space of time, rather than one or two over a longer period of time. The more opportunities a child has on the ball, the more they’re going to improve their mastery of the ball. A cold child is an unhappy child, and as mentioned before, enjoyment must be the primary goal.
- Don’t overload the squad with complex messages and targets, try and keep team talks short and to the point so you can focus more on the activity. Coaching points can be given individually whilst the squad are moving and taking part, so there’s no need to keep calling the squad in for lengthy chats.
- Ensure that children turn up in appropriate attire. Lightweight shorts and t shirts aren’t going to offer much protection from the elements, so try and give advice to parents and players about the right kind of kit to wear. A good starting point is thermal base layers. Base layers regulate the body’s temperature at the same time as wicking moisture away from the body, keeping the player warm and dry. Water resistant training tops are also ideal, being light enough for the player to continue to exercise but offering protection from the wind and rain. Another key item is footwear. It’s surprising how often players turn up with canvas footwear, or shoes with little or no grip. In winter months, the ground is often soft and wet, so studded football boots are a must unless the pitch is artificial in which case AstroTurf shoes are ideal (blades are not recommended). Finally, a warm hat and gloves are always a good option. Wearing a hat maintains heat in your body, whilst gloves give that extra bit of protection when it’s cold – once a child’s hands are cold, they lose interest and just want to go home.
- Cold, dark evenings never inspire motivation to train, so reinforcing positive messages and setting the tone with an upbeat persona are a great idea to get the children energised and enthusiastic. Offering constructive criticism and coaching points keep the squad engaged and motivated, and coupled with lots of movement and game play can be the key to a successful session. You want the children to leave wanting more and feeling good about themselves, not overworked and demoralised.
- Overall, the children are not professional athletes. Whilst at a higher-level repetition and specific skill training is beneficial, at a younger age sessions should be simple, enjoyable and highly active. Afterall, they’ve turned up to play the sport and have fun, not practice corner kicks repeatedly or throw in routines.