Following the end of vigorous physical activity, like a match or heavy training session, it takes time for the body to return to its resting state. Large volumes of blood and waste products remain in the muscles, known as lactic acid, which lead to a build-up of tightness within the muscles and heavy legs. The main objective of a cool down is to rid the muscles of much of this excess and unwanted fluid and waste products in the tissues and muscles.
When a player just stops following a training session or game they will almost certainly have some muscle stiffness/soreness. By cooling-down properly, the body can rid itself of much of this muscle stiffness ensuring the player is more comfortable and better able to recover from the effects of the physical activity.
The main objectives of a suitable cool-down is to help the body, particularly the heart, body metabolism and respiratory rate to normal, and to encourage the body to better dilute the waste products - lactic acid - from the muscles. A good cool-down will provide a gradual decrease in exercise intensity, it will involve controlled rhythmical movements which will also assist in a gradual cooling of the muscles and the body.
An additional benefit of the cool - down is that the ability to sleep is enhanced, which is crucial in ensuring that the body recovers and further rid the body of muscle soreness. Many players also seem to think that a proper cool - down can also decrease the likely hood of getting colds or ill which can often happen after extreme periods of exercise.
It is also important that the players eat and drink correctly as this refueling process can certainly aid recovery and enhance subsequent performances in training and matches.
A recommended cool - down:
5 - 10 minutes of jogging and walking incorporating bum kicks, knees ups, skipping, side to side movements, gentle turning exercises all done at a medium to slow pace
5 - 10 minutes of static stretching, particularly the main four soccer muscles, hamstrings, calves, groins and quads:
A good idea is for the coach to get the players to perform the cool down drills as a line across the pitch, with the coach in front of the players. This also enables the coach to have a debrief and chat with the players at the end of the game.
On hot days, make sure the players are re hydrating whilst cooling down and have changed their sweaty match shirt for a clean dry one. It is also a good idea to find a shaded area out of the sun to cool down. On cooler days, ensure the players have warm and dry tops and tracksuit bottoms on. Static stretches could be done in the dressing room.