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For any sport that might cause sweating or which might be played while sweating one should drink water first. The logic behind this is obvious but it is one of the most often ignored facts of sports, especially when the athletes are children.Neither the mind nor the body works as well when one is dehydrated. The body signals that it is becoming dehydrated by thirst. By the time a player is thirsty, their body is already dehydrated. Since it takes from 10 to 15 minutes for water in the stomach to get into the blood, the player will not be able to begin to correct the water shortage in the body until 10-15 minutes after drinking. During that 10-15 minutes the body will continue to lose water through breathing and sweat. Adult athletes often lose 5-10 pounds of water during a game or practice. That is the equivalent of 10-20 full glasses of water. If a child lost two pounds due to sweat during the game or practice they would have to drink at least 4 ounce glasses to restore the proper water balance. Note also that the adult athletes are drinking water from time to time during the game or practice and they still lose the weight. Why? Because they do not start to drink soon enough and, during play, do not drink often enough.

The implication for the youth coach is obvious. You must encourage your team to drink to prevent thirst. They should drink 10-15 minutes before exercise. They should drink every 10-15 minutes during exercise.

You will find it very difficult to get them to drink enough. They will tell you they do not want any water. Tell them to drink for the team. They will say they are not thirsty. Tell them to drink to prevent getting thirsty. They will say they do not want to be slowed by drinking too much water. Tell them that dehydration will slow them far more than having 6-8 ounces more of water in the stomach.

Dehydration prevents good thinking. A dehydrated player will make more errors and more stupid plays. A dehydrated player will not be able to concentrate well. A dehydrated player is more likely to be injured.

Water is also the key to keeping the body cool enough during hot weather. You might see players pour water over their heads to cool off. Drinking that water will generate far more cooling. The cold water reduces body temperature directly by contact with the center of the body. None of the coolness in the water falls wasted on the ground. Water in the body also helps cool the skin when it becomes sweat.

The water should be chilled. It provides more cooling that way and tastes better so the players will drink more.

Players whose equipment is warm (like the baseball catcher) need to be encouraged to drink even more than the other players. I give them “head of the line” privileges at the water cooler. That is, they get to go right to the head of the line at the cooler and take the place of whoever is drinking. They can drink as much as they want and come back as often as they want regardless of who is drinking. Pitchers have to give way only to the catchers. Also, if the catcher gets thirsty during a long inning I carry the water cooler out to him so he can get a drink.

The coaches first duty is to protect the players from injury. Therefore when getting ready to practice the coach must make sure there is plenty of fresh, cool water available.

Many coaches bring paper cups for the players. The cups become trash on the ground and the players sometimes use each others cups. If you use cups you will need to “police” the area to leave it clean after the game or practice.

If there is ice in the cooler some of the players will want to open the cooler and grab a piece of ice. This should be prevented because their hands are dirty and that contaminates the drinking water.

Warming Up

The beginning of warmup should be a gentle jog to get the heart and lungs going and to get the beginning of sweat. This is followed by stretching of the parts of the the body that will be involved in the sport. That means legs, arms, trunk (torso), and neck should be stretched. The key things to remember about stretching are that it is a slow stretching not a jerk and that the stretched position must be held for 25-30 seconds to allow the muscles and tendons to adjust.

Warming up will take at least 10 minutes if done right. If done wrong or not at all it will not help.

You as the coach may have legal liability if one of your players is injured without having warmed up properly.

Now that the body is ready for exercise it is time to “warm up” the subconscious mind. This is another area usually ignored by coaches. Most of the time spend “playing” baseball is just standing there waiting for something to happen. When something does happen, the player must react very quickly to do well. The player’s conscious mind is too slow for the quickest reactions. Thus, it is the subconscious mind, (often called “reflexes” or “instincts” or “habits”) which must do the reacting for optimal performance.

Batting is a good example. The batter waits for the pitch. When the pitcher throws the ball the hitter has less than a second to decide to make a decision and swing. The conscious mind is not fast enough to tell one’s hands and arms how to swing the bat in time. The player must let their subconscious mind swing the bat.

During the warming up of the body the player should be reminding their subconscious of the techniques it is to use to throw, catch, and swing by doing those things while paying attention to the technique. The way the player warms up is the way the subconscious is most likely to play. If the player warms up by throwing and catching in a sloppy manner you can expect them to throw and catch in a sloppy manner during the game. Batters who warm up by swinging two or three bats or a weighted bat are telling their subconscious to use a swing with poor mechanics because they cannot swing something that heavy using good mechanics. The player who concentrates on good technique during warmups will find it rather easy to make good plays in the game or practice.

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