MARBLE FALLS — To those watching from the sidelines, it looks funny.
Why would soccer players jump up and down like rabbits one way, sprint back to the starting point and turn to the side and do it again?
Why do buttock kicks for 10 yards, then turn around and run back to the starting point?
It’s all for one simple reason — the movements stretch the body and prepare it for battle in a sport known for making players run about six miles per contest.
At least that’s how the Marble Falls High School boys soccer team tells it. While the exercises may look funny to some, head coach Michael Nave said he can’t argue with the results.
Ever since the Mustangs added those movements — along with high knees, leg swings and lunges — he’s noticed his players have spent more time on the practice field and less time in the trainer’s room.
“As I’ve looked at the results, I’m pleased,” he said. “We’ve had very few groin and hamstring pulls.”
Nave said he made the decision to change the team’s stretching after reading literature, attending camps and talking to other soccer enthusiasts.
Sports figures have called for less static stretching (not moving) and more dynamic stretching (moving), the coach said.
The goal is to develop stretching exercises that mimic the movements players experience during a game.
The bunny hop may be fun to watch as the players hop forward for 10 yards and run back to their starting point just to face the stands and hop from side to side for 10 yards and then sprint back.
But Nave said it forces players to mimic using their heads or chests to get the ball.
The leg swings copy extension to get the ball, and the knee highs are like using the knee to control the ball.
“Since they’re moving, there’s not as much opportunity to sit and talk,” the Mustangs skipper said. “With static stretching, you could just sit there.”
Depending on the day of the week, the routine changes once the stretching is complete.
On game days, the team breaks out into small groups and works on passing drills.
On non-game days, they will do toe taps and outside dribbling.
Another factor that may have helped the Mustangs this season is they are playing on artificial turf at their new stadium, the coach said.
So Nave said he is willing to concede the dynamic stretching might look strange, but he likes the results – having more players to work with on the field allows the Mustangs to build depth in multiple positions. And it also means the athletes can spend more time doing what they love — playing — instead of cheering.
“It could be a coincidence,” Nave said. “It might have an impact. It’s nice to not have to deal with hamstrings.”
Marble Falls will host Austin LBJ in the bi-district round of the playoffs 5 p.m. Saturday at Mustang Stadium, 2101 Mustang Drive.