SHANE RICE: Building the perfect warm-up: Balancing preparation and efficiency

IN the world of sports, the pre-game ritual is a sacred time, a delicate balance between readiness and conservation of energy.

As a coach, I’ve traversed the spectrum, from overzealous warm-ups to realising that less is often more when it comes to preparing players for the impending match.

There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for the ideal warm-up; it’s more an art of customisation, an intricate dance choreographed to optimise performance while conserving valuable energy reserves. However, there are guidelines, principles to follow that can elevate a warm-up from good to great.

I’ve come to embrace the R.A.M.P method – a four-step approach that guides the warm-up process.

It begins with Raising the heart rate, moves on to Activating the muscles and Mobilizing the joints, culminating in Potentiating the players’ nervous systems before delving into game-based warm-up drills.

The initial phase, R for Raise, involves low-intensity movements aimed at gradually stimulating both physical and cognitive qualities. I’ve learned to allocate the first 5-7 minutes to this stage, sans ball, allowing players to focus solely on preparing their bodies before integrating the ball into the warm-up.

From jogging to sweeping, lunging to backward running, incorporating mini-band exercises and animal movements, the R.A.M section ensures a comprehensive warm-up, setting the stage for the subsequent phases.

The P, Potentiation, is where the intensity kicks in with jumping and sprinting. Depending on the match’s timing, especially those early morning games, dedicating more time to awakening the nervous system becomes crucial. In such instances, the warm-up is not just a routine but a preventive measure against potential injuries. I am still getting used to the Dublin club games starting at 10.30am in which the pre match warm-up comes even more important.

Once the RAMP method has been diligently followed, it’s time to intertwine the ball into the equation. However, I’ve learned that these drills must mirror the game itself. No more isolated hand-passing drills; instead, it’s about replicating game scenarios. Rondos become the centerpiece, short, intense possessions that mimic the real game pressure.

For foot-passing integration, it’s not about mindless repetition but about crafting drills that simulate match situations. 5v5 outside the 45-metre line, with 2v2 inside, fostering pressure and decision-making skills under game-like conditions.

The underlying principle remains constant: game-based drills following the RAMP method.

Each drill, each rotation, each action is a preparation for what lies ahead—the game.

In the realm of football, the warm-up is a prelude, a ritualistic symphony that sets the stage for the players’ performance. As a coach, mastering this art means not only optimising performance but also ensuring the players step onto the field both physically and mentally prepared for battle.

Shane Rice, Parnells senior men’s coach and Foxrock Cabinteely LGFA coach

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