Monthly Archives: July 2015

Crank Up the Warm Up

Warm-up. Traditional static stretching.

As a player, I used to hate it. As a coach, I grew to hate it even more. Static stretching.

I don’t like the idea of forcing “cold” muscles to stretch. I know I half-assed static stretching back in the day just as the current generation of players half-ass through their static stretching regimens.

I prefer functional flexibility. I prefer a dynamic type of warm-up routine.


Besides incrementally increasing the range of motion of primary and secondary muscle groups as they are being functionally used, there is another very important benefit to dynamic warm-up, it improves athleticism. An area often overlooked factor by sports coaches at the high school level is the value of athletic development.

I’ve ranted on this subject on many occasions, but it is my belief the number one duty of a high school sports coach is to see the potential in a kid and find a way to help that kid achieve his or her potential. This duty is beyond schemes, strategy, play calling, depth charts, etc.

Developing athletes is job numero uno and when I coached, we found the dynamic warm-up routine to be a great opportunity for us to squeeze the most out of the first ten or fifteen minutes of every workout, every practice, and every contest. We used a total body, functional range of motion series of movements to prepare the muscles, stretch the muscles, and teach the muscles how to move to become a more mobile athlete.

Dynamic Warm-Up

Stretch Runs

  • High Knee
    High Knee Skip
    Carioca with a Twist
    Zig Zag Runs
    Backward Long Stride
    Flip Flop Hops
    Squat Walk
    Kangaroo Hops
    Walking Lunges

Sprints (Start on a verbal or visual signal)

  • 4 – 20-yard sprints (2-right foot start, 2-left foot start)
    4 – 10-yard sprints (2-right foot start, 2-left foot start)
    4 – 5-yard sprints (2-right foot start, 2-left foot start)

How effective was it?

Well, in my nine football seasons and almost as many baseball seasons, we had, at most, five straight-out pulled muscle injuries over the time frame. Several coaches have also used the routine for their basketball programs with similar results.

In short, it works. Kids get better. Kids stay healthier. Kid perform at higher level.

It’s not easy to implement a change in philosophy in sports. Sports people are just as bad, or worse, than the general public when it comes to an aversion to change. Our situation was no different. But with science and research and great, forward-thinking head coaches who took the risk and allowed this dynamic warm-up philosophy, we were able to make this a vital part of our program operations.

The proof was in the pudding. We used the first 10-15 minutes of practice to develop better athletes and prepare our bodies for the physical demands we put them through. It was an important factor in developing the “human weapons” we needed to complete.

I coach with the philosophy, “I will put my athletes up against your athletes any day of the week”. We may not always win, but we will leave our mark on the minds and bodies of our opponents every single time we step on a field to compete.

Success starts with the basics

Kids getting better.
Kids getting healthier.
Kids performing at a higher level.

Tigers 2006 runout

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The Jack-In-The-Box

The jack-in-the-box.

You turn the crank slowly. Nothing happens.

You turn slower and slower and slower in anticipation of the freaky clown popping out when the lid springs open. With every turn, your heart beats faster and your eyes get a little wider. The chime rings out the tune one slow note at a time as you get closer and closer to the always surprising endgame and then…



Developing athletes is similar to a jack-in-the-box. The athlete cranks the handle by practicing and training. When the time is right, the breakthrough comes, and the performance “pops” for all to see.

I saw this with several of the baseball kids we coached this summer (I know, I know, I retired. Insert Mrs. Hays laughing). Starting this spring, these particular players worked and worked to become better hitters. We worked with them on staying vertical and using their tall, lanky frames to generate angular force through a short, compact swing.

These players slowly cranked the handle of their athletic jack-in-the-box to get better throughout the season. They put in meaningful time at the batting cages and at practice. Honestly, they hit the crap out of the ball more often than not this summer. Finally, for one of the players, the catch was sprung on the lid and he hit his first home run to seal a victory in our final game of the summer. It was a legit shot that easily cleared the left field fence. I even smiled—during an actual game, if you can believe that.

This is how athletic development works. You work toward a goal. You grind it out day after day to what often seems to no avail. You get frustrated. You despair. Sometimes, you quit. But to those who keep turning that handle on their athletic jack-in-the-box with grit and determination, success will come.

You will improve.

It is inevitable.

So, keep lifting, keep running, keep swinging, and throwing. Practice ball-handling and shooting baskets every day. Continue to work on your technique, your footwork, and your mental game. Just keep cranking and good things will happen.

I’ve said this many times in the past, but one of the most important things a coach or teacher can do is to see the potential in a kid and help them achieve that potential. Teach them to keep working and to keep turning their cranks of improvement until their talent springs forward.

Now, it’s time to shove this old, tired, jack-in-the-box of a coach down, snap the lid shut, and throw him back into the storage closet. I am retiring from active coaching…again.

Maybe (Stop laughing Mrs. Hays.).

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