Don’t Skimp on the Warm-ups
Guest post by Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog
You would think that this week’s rant topic would be pretty self-evident. Yet apparently it’s not.
I keep hearing stories about coaches (many of them HS coaches right now because that’s the season most are in) who don’t seem to think that warm-ups are essential or even necessary. What’s odd is that when they get the results you would expect – injuries and poor play – they don’t seem to learn from it.
One girl I know, a pitcher, was actually called a diva because she wanted to do some dynamic warm-ups before starting practice or throwing for games. Her teammates apparently saw no reason to stretch; sadly, neither did her coach. She did the best she could to get herself prepared but it was definitely a struggle.
A good warm-up, including dynamic stretching, is essential both for game preparation and injury prevention. (Static stretch, where you pull and hold a muscle, is strictly for post-game cool-downs and flexibility.) Yet all too often coaches merely give it lip service, or don’t focus on it at all.
The same goes with skills warm-ups. I’ve seen plenty of teams that laugh and joke their way through warm-ups. The mess around when they should be working on bunting; they throw the ball all over the place without a worry in the world. They dog it on fly balls and ground balls. Then their coaches get mad when they lose.
What do those coaches expect? Warm-ups are performed for a purpose. They’re there to help your team get ready for the game. If that’s how you warm up, that’s how you’ll play.
Many coaches also seem to lack understanding of what it takes for a pitcher to warm up. I suppose that’s because in high school many lower level coaches in particular are teachers with no softball experience who are either there to earn a few extra dollars or to be adult supervision so you can have a team. So let me throw this one out there.
Pitching is a difficult, high-pressure job. Pitching a softball is particularly challenging because the motion is unique to that position. While there are certainly nuances that differ, a baseball pitcher is throwing overhand, which is something everyone else does. But a softball pitcher is the only one throwing with a windmill motion.
Pitchers, even accomplished ones, need some time to get that motion grooved so they can perform at their best. Given how important pitching is to the overall success of the team you’d think coaches would let pitchers do whatever they need to in order to get ready. But time after time I hear or read about a coach who says “You don’t need to do all that. Just throw a few pitches and let’s go.”
I beg to differ. Yes, coach, she does need all that time if that’s what it takes. Some can warm-up quickly. Others take more time. It can also vary with an individual from day to day, because we all have good days and bad days. I say again, whatever it takes for a pitcher to get ready let her do it. A lot of the team’s success is riding on it.
A fish rots from the head down. If the coach doesn’t take warm-ups seriously, neither will his/her players. When that happens, be prepared for a long, unhappy season.
If you’re a coach, make sure your team is preparing to succeed rather than fail. It will make a huge difference.
Anyway, that’s the way I see it.
How about you, what do you think?