Coaches want athletes to show up to practice as well as put in time in the gym to become bigger, faster, and stronger. The reality of the situation is that many athletes are limited in achieving optimal performance because they do not take the time to do things that help them recover like stretching. I have seen many athletes be consistent in their efforts at practice and in the gym and all of a sudden succumb to an injury.
I have heard of many stories from parents and athletes in which when they show up to practice there is little to no warm-up prior to starting on the field. Many coaches will have their athletes run several laps around the track and think that is a sufficient warm-up. There are some coaches who just go right into static stretching prior to the start of practice. The problem with not having an active warm-up is that your risk of injury is much higher. It would be like trying to stretch a cold rubber band, in order for muscles to loosen up they must be warm. The same holds true at the end of practice in which many coaches just dismiss the team with no semblance of stretching protocol or foam rolling.
It is interesting to me with so many people wanting their athletes to be bigger, faster, and stronger that they do not approach training as a multi-faceted attack. The first thing that should be discussed with an athlete is proper nutritional protocol. Then followed by an appropriate strength training regimen and a recovery plan. It takes all three aspects in order to produce a bigger, faster, stronger athlete.
Flexibility is often the most under-utilized tool in an athlete’s arsenal. This means that at the beginning of a practice or training session, they should perform an active warm-up. Active means that an athlete should be performing movement based activities to sufficiently warm-up the entire body. Some examples of these movements could be: jumping jacks, bunny hops, high knees, buttkickers, etc.
Most athletes overlook the flexibility aspect and do not realize that by increasing their range of motion, it can help with speed, vertical jumping, and injury prevention. Another tool that is under utilized is a foam roller, I prefer the Rumble Roller extra firm. The roller is a great myofascial release tool that should be used on a consistent basis. The combination of stretching and rolling can significantly reduce the risk of injuries and if you have a nagging injury can help alleviate the issue.
If you are an athlete and are not utilizing these tools, you are missing out of two of the biggest recovery tools. Stretching and rolling should be done daily and consistently in order to produce the results you are looking for.