As we are sport-loving types at my cricket club so there is normally a football being kicked around the outfield by a couple of players on the morning of a match. As we are competitive types too, this gentle kickabout tends to become a game with jumpers for goalposts, sliding tackles and elaborate diving in the box.
It might be fun, but is it a suitable way to warm up before a cricket game?
We all know the importance of warming up. A game of football (or touch rugby or any other sport) will certainly get the blood flowing and body moving in a way the body needs.
Everyone can join in and most people do. This neatly sidesteps the problem of players not warming up at all because they find it dull or pointless. With the competitive draw of a football match most players will be running around and working up a sweat in no time.
Where did it all go wrong?
England players Matt Prior, James Anderson and Joe Denly have all seen a negative side of the football match as warm up.
All three picked up injuries during a pre-game football warm up. Denly's looked the worst when his knee buckled under a tackle that was probably a bookable offence. Although no serious damage was done, he and Anderson missed games.
It shows that it's easy getting carried away with these games. One minute you are just passing a ball around the outfield, the next you are attempting a bicycle kick to score a last minute winner or hacking down your star opening bowler because he's through on goal.
A football game is also not the best way to warm up for cricket based skills, especially bowling and throwing. It does get your muscles warm, but it doesn't get them moving. A good warm up will activate and stretch the muscles you are going to use during the game in the way they will be used. For example, a bowler needs a stable core and a flexible upper body. A football game won't help with either of those but a good active mobility and stability session will.
To play or not to play?
Where does that leave the humble coach or captain when deciding what warm up is best?
If you are in charge of warm ups for a senior club side who take their cricket very seriously you may want to err on the side of caution and leave the knock up game out. Focus on a well planned, progressive warm up that finishes with some higher intensity drills (sprinting or fielding) to get the same effect with fewer injuries.
On the other hand, if you captain a more social team it may be a football game is the only warm up you do. It's certainly better than nothing. In the long run you may try to incorporate some mobility drills to make things more specific and keep your players injury-free (even a park side needs its players on the pitch).
image credit: a.blight