Winter Training – The Dos and Don’ts

Winter is well and truly here, with temperatures below freezing across the country, which has already wreaked havoc on grassroots sports.

It is the annual headache that grassroots coaches across many sports face – winter training. Getting games on at the weekend is one thing, but training in the dark on a midweek evening is another challenge altogether.

The temperature is colder, conditions are tougher, and quite frankly most would rather be sat at home with their feet in front of the heater. On the flip side, players/parents have paid their subs and expect to train when possible. The key here is “to train when possible” and while it may be tempting to want to get out and brave the conditions, sometimes the right call is to cancel and go again next week.

Here, we have compiled a short list of dos and don’ts for grassroots coaches when planning a winter training session.

Do – Keep Players Active

If after considering whether it is safe to train, make sure that your session plan keeps players mobile with as little standing around as possible. Youths, especially young children, will become cold very quickly and it will be hard for them to get warm again once they are feeling cold.

Fun games with lots of running should feature in your session plan. An active arrival activity, such as a game of tag, will help to keep your girls and boys warm in cold conditions. If your players arrive and are standing around waiting for the session to begin, you will be fighting a losing battle and will struggle to retain their attention, as well as increasing the risk of injury as muscles tighten.

Don’t – Play for the Sake of Playing

There is nothing to gain from putting training on for the sake on putting it on. If the weather is too bad, it is too bad. Some coaches can be guilty of seeing training and playing in poor conditions as something to be proud of. It is nothing more than irresponsible.

Girls and boys that play grassroots sports do so because they enjoy themselves, not for the sole purpose of adding another football trophy to their bedroom display. If temperatures are freezing and your environment is unsafe, then call it off. Your players won’t be enjoying themselves and that will only put them off wanting to come back – they will be looking at other clubs/coaches or, even worse, completely fall away from the sport due to their negative experience.

Do – Consider the Age of Your Players

While as adults, we may look forward to getting stuck in in such conditions, you should consider whether you would be half as keen if you were the same age as your players. If you coach older children, such as 16–18-year-olds, they may will be happy to carry on as they are better equipped to regulate their body temperatures than a seven-year-old.

If you have a group of young players, then it may be worth seeking alternative training areas or times to allow you to continue through the winter months. If there is the possibility of training indoors, then absolutely explore that possibility – yes, outside may be better for various reasons, but training indoors is better than not at all.

Don’t – Make Assumptions

Don’t assume that your players will arrive with suitable clothing for the conditions. If you are training in the winter, always put out regular reminders to ensure that players wrap up warm and wear kit suitable to the colder temperatures. There will always be one that doesn’t bring their coat, woolly hat, or gloves.

You shouldn’t always assume that they will bring their own drink. It is a responsibility for players to bring their own hydration, especially as they get older, but during such cold snaps, it will be worth ensuring that you have some bottles of water handy. Good levels of hydration help the body to regulate its temperature, meaning that those that regularly take on water at training are going to be the ones feeling warmest.

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