Say goodbye to the old jog and stretch this year

As the new year kicks off, our minds often turn to getting back into sport. Dare we say it, winter codes are not too far away, and many of us have kids returning to school so we can expect a few decisions about what sports they’re going to play this year.

If there’s one thing we would encourage anyone playing sport this year to take a little more seriously, it would be warming up. Gone are the days of a gentle jog around the paddock and a bit of a stretch before you hit the pitch. We know a lot more now about what works and what doesn’t, and we are big supporters of the ACC SportSmart programme, especially their warm-up routine. This may not be new to many of us in the industry, but it is a useful reminder that many athletes and teams are following out of date and ineffective exercises, and we need to continue to increase the participation in these programmes.

The warm-up routine is based on the FIFA 11+ programme, developed by a group of international experts from FIFA's Medical Assessment and Research Centre, the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Centre and the Santa Monica Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Research Foundation. It was proven to reduce injuries by 30 to 50% in teams that performed it at least twice a week. But not only that, warming up correctly has been shown to improve performance, as well as prepare players both mentally and physically.

In our experience younger athletes respond positively when we talk to them about this being a performance-enhancing programme, that by doing these exercises they will develop into better athletes. And there is evidence that backs this up. With an older crowd though, the focus seems to shift to staying injury free. An injury for them means time out of sport, but can also mean time off work and not be able to play with their kids. Many also know that their bodies take longer to recover than they used to, so injuries can linger. This is a small thing they can be doing to significantly reduce the likelihood of getting injured.

Both New Zealand Football (through Fit4Football) and Netball New Zealand (through their NetballSmart programme) have made great strides in getting their players into this, and similar work is being undertaken by Rugby, League and Touch. But the programme is not just for the major codes. It can be used by anyone who participates in sport and exercise, and the ACC SportSmart website has an excellent series of videos that runs you through the required exercises for training and on game day.

If you need a more dedicated help and guidance, both New Zealand Football and Netball New Zealand have teams across the country who will come to your club and work with you on how to follow the correct warm up. Footballers can go here and contact your local Player Welfare Officer, while Netballers can head here, find your zone and register for a workshop.

So when you’re out there in your clubs and schools, make sure you, your players, or your teammates are warming up correctly, and if they’re not, encourage them to do so.