With proper guidance, youth lacrosse coaches can introduce a variety of movement experiences that are valuable for their young athletes. Performing a dynamic warm-up before practice or competition is important for both injury prevention, physical readiness, and enhanced performance. Warm-ups increase the body’s core temperature improving the elasticity of muscle, tendon, ligament, and connective tissue, potentially reducing the risk of strains and sprains. Warm muscles are also easier to stimulate and more responsive in producing the rapid contractions needed to provide the joint stability and muscular force needed during play.

To help create technical and tactical advantages against opponents, coaches may also decide to include various agility and quickness drills to help improve athleticism. In addition, because the risk of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury is greater among female athletes, some coaches may also find it valuable to include an ACL injury prevention program. There is no question that these practice or pregame undertakings are important and have the potential to provide tremendous benefit for the youth lacrosse coach. However, the major dilemma is that these preparatory and training activities may consume precious minutes that take away from the learning of essential technical and tactical lacrosse skills specific to the sport.  This can be particularly troubling for coaches that have time constraints or limited access to facilities.

Fortunately, there exists a simple solution that coaches can use to address each of these areas in as little as 12-15 minutes.  Dynamic warm-ups should typically begin with deliberate and passive efforts (e.g. knee grabs, quad pulls, and figure 4’s, etc.) that evolve into controlled, low-speed, whole body actions (e.g., walking lunges, reverse lunges, over/under the hurdles, etc.).  As the body’s core temperature and range of motion increases with time, the warm-up should become more dynamic and vigorous while including fundamental movements and their variations (e.g., potato pickers, slides, skips, back skips, cariocas, front cariocas, etc.). Once these dynamic movements have been mastered, the coach can start to incorporate change-in-direction actions with the use of auditory (whistle or claps) or visual (mirror drills or waving a stick) cues.

Passive movements that progress into dynamic fundamental movement patterns offer a safe, methodical, and effective warm-up environment. Simultaneously, fundamental movements can be refined and reinforced as the foundation for agility and quickness, two underlying bio-motor abilities that contribute to athleticism. Adding change-of-direction tasks will require muscles of the lower body to co-contract and improve the joint stability needed to protect the knee and ankle, when athletes accelerate then decelerate when performing cutting actions and other unanticipated movements. Muscle co-contraction helps reduce the incidence and severity of ACL injury and at the same time provides the dynamic balance needed to enhance performance. 

Warm-up, skill development, and injury prevention are all important components of a safe and positive practice and pregame experience. Combining various movement experiences as part of a dynamic warm-up will help solve the “not enough time” issue, and allow coaches to preserve the time needed to develop important technical and tactical lacrosse skills. 

US Lacrosse developed the Lax Prep course to help athletes improve their performance. The online course which shows how to implement it into your practice warm-ups is available free to US Lacrosse members at learning.uslacrosse.org

Tony Moreno PhD CSCS is a Professor of Kinesiology at Eastern Michigan University and a long-time Coaching Educator for the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

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