Co-authored by Jennifer Schwartz, Fitness and Injury Prevention and Robyn Kenney of Mindfulnessathletics.com
A Pre-session Routine is a specific process that prepares athletes to have the most productive and focused session possible. We are recommending a recipe of specific tasks that a player can adopt before beginning each training session. If done routinely players will quickly transition from thinking about school to being completely present and focused in each session. This can give them a sense of control in performing their best and improving mental and physical skills in each session on a consistent basis. If several teams follow our suggestions for making Pre-session Routines a habit, it will strengthen the ASA culture, enhance a focused training environment and help the players measurably improve over the course of a season.
This can achieve two very important things for our players: mental and physical preparation. Combining mental and physical preparation will increase a player’s concentration and facilitate a present moment awareness that gets them in the most optimal performance state, the flow/zone state. . Physical preparation is keeping the muscles fresh and strong throughout the week.
The culture at ASA is an expression of our values of continuous learning, team and individual success, and high performance. The Club takes pride in our coaches’ education and ability to connect the game to our community. This all starts with training sessions that are effective and focused. Our Pre-session Routines will make an impact on our training outcomes and attitudes.
Unhelpful Pre-Session Routines
Unfortunately, we see teams that roundup around the goal and shoot the ball repeatedly before practice. This does not reinforce a hard-working and competitive culture and it could have a negative impact on the player (high injury susceptibility) and the subsequent training session.
Taking a dead-ball in front of the goal is fun, but impractical. Players often get injured doing this. I saw one example this past week. The lack of warming-up and goofing off before practice exposed this player to an injury. I evaluated him for both a hip flexor strain and back pain. We often see players jump in the goal for this type of shooting fun and there are many examples of unnecessary wrist injuries from precisely this activity.
What does a Pre-session Routine look like?
- Warming-up with Active Stretches. This is a series of stretches and can be an individual activity. This is the time that the player can address any muscular imbalances that they may have as well as any muscles that need extra care for recovery. Once the players learn these Active Stretches they are responsible for taking 5–10 minutes to use them. I have told the older age groups many times that they are responsible for showing up to practice with their mind and body prepared to play. This is an important step in making that their reality.
- Imaging with a goal in mind for each session and a chosen statement that gives a player motivation to perform at full intensity.
- Focusing while doing dynamic run/sprint drills or using the breathe. We teach the players an activity called “Rondo Runs”. They are perfect for this.
- Executing with checking muscle flexibility and readiness. For example, players can reach for their toes before or after their routine, this will give them feedback on how the muscles are responding to the Active Stretches and if they are warming-up.
- Evaluating with analysis of their self-paced skill and if their muscles feel ready. When I was in college, my Pre-session Routine included 20 juggles with my left foot only. Once I reached this number I moved to the next activity. This small sense of accomplishment can set a positive tone for training among other benefits.
Optimally a Pre-Session Routine is a tool to enable the players to be their best on a consistent basis. At ASA our training time is very important time. Our training time should be with the ball to develop the tactical and technical sides of the game, it is vital that the players are taking responsibility to be physically prepared. During the season, pre-session time (when they are at the field anyways) is an opportunity to enhance the muscles and strengthen their individual competitiveness.
Cotterill S. Pre-performance routines in sport: Current understanding and future directions. International review of sport and exercise psychology. 2010;3(2):132–53.