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Soccer Prep 101
When Your Child Has Never Played Soccer Before...
As a soccer parent, when I started my child in the game at the age of 4, I thought the only things I needed to purchase was a uniform and ball! I couldn't have been more wrong. The first season was a torment because I was constantly running into things that would have helped make the experience more enjoyable for my family. Since soccer organizations generally don't give you a list of everything you will need, I thought I'd give those of you who are soccer parent newbies the heads up!
Cold Weather Climates
Being from Michigan, I can tell you spring and fall can be brutal. Driving rains, snow and lots of wind are on the program if your child has outdoor games. Here's a few things that will help you make your season warmer and more enjoyable.
- Warm Clothing. Please for the love of god invest in long-sleeved shirts for your child designed for physical activity. And get your child some soccer goalie gloves or gloves that have a gripping surface along with a hat. Otherwise, prepare for colds and earaches.
- Blankets and Towels. Make sure your soccer bag has warm blankets and towels for days which are cold and rainy. I can't tell you how horrible it was the first year getting my child off the field after a cold rain and driving home in wet clothing!
- Ponchos. Get a simple rain poncho for yourself and your child. You'll be thankful.
- Big Umbrella. As a spectator, remember you'll be sitting for at least an hour or more on the soccer field. Regular sized umbrellas just won't do. Buy either a golf-sized umbrella or a large umbrella designed for outdoor activities. It will save you from being wet and miserable on the field.
- Hand Warmers. Go to your local sporting goods store and invest in disposable handwarmers that hunters use! It will help both you and your child after a cold, wet day on the soccer field.
- Hot Drinks. If it's an exceptionally cold day for a game, stop off and pick up some hot chocolate or tea for your child. When drink breaks come it will help to warm them up.
Warm Weather Climates
If you're fortunate enough to live where spring and fall can be warm, you're lucky. But warmer climates pose other needs that you might not think about . Here's a few things to help you and your child during the soccer season:
- Water. Lots of Water. Water is a staple for your soccer player, but in warm weather it is essential. If the day is going to be hot, bring your child lots of water.
- Sunscreen. In warmer climates, the sun can be brutal in just 15 minutes. Make sure your child's skin in protected with waterproof sunscreen.
- Cooler. Consider bringing a cooler to the game with cold drinks for yourself and your child. Ice can be wonderful after a game!
- Cool Clothing. Soccer gear can be hot after a long game. Often uniforms are made of materials that aren't especially cooling for the sake of durability, and hot soccer pads don't help either. Bring your child a change of clothing and sandals so they can cool off after the game.
- Bug Spray.We don't think about this in Michigan until summer, but for those of you in warm, humid climates, bugs can be a problem. Make sure you have some bug repellent on hand for those times when they just won't leave you alone!
In soccer, your child will need equipment, including the correct size of ball, a uniform, shoes and pads. If your child is starting soccer in the fall, shoes may be difficult to find locally. Most department stores carry soccer needs in the spring. Plan ahead to purchase these items.
- When looking for soccer shoes, don't forget to check out thrift stores! I found a new pair of soccer cleats for my child at a quarter of what I would have paid in a department store! Shop ahead and have the next size shoe available.
- Most teams tell you what size soccer ball you will need. Soccer balls have numbers on them that indicate the size of the ball. Ball sizes start at 2 and go all the way to 5. Make sure the ball you select is the proper size for the age of your child.
- Soccer balls today come in a variety of graphics and colors unimagined years ago. They even make soccer balls that light up or glow in the dark. Encourage your child to pick a ball they like so they'll be motivated to play
- Make sure your child has an insulated water bottle that's dishwasher-safe
- When purchasing a uniform, make sure it's one size larger than the size your child fits. That way it will last longer and save you some money.
- Have at least two pairs of soccer socks so that your child has a pair for practice and a pair for the game.
- When choosing pads, get the correct size for your child. Soccer pad packaging lists the size and the age that size pad will fit. When in doubt, have your child try them on!
Things To Consider-Adults
There were a lot of things when I became a soccer parent that I never even considered. Here's some advice to smooth the way.
- Please encourage friends and relatives to attend games. It's more pleasant for you to have someone to share the experience and it encourages your child to play to their 'fans'.
- Bring cameras and video recorders. Many moments in soccer are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to record your child's progress and memories. You may want to put the images in a scrapbook!
- When it's sunny outside, it's nice to have a hat to shield you from the sun, along with sunglasses, Bring them along.
- You can bring a magazine, book or some work from the office, but I don't encourage it. I tried that the first year of my child's involvement with soccer and after several repetitions of "Look at me!" I finally figured out that wasn't going to work.
- Don't forget to bring water or beverages for yourself. Bring a comfy cushion or chair to each game. Remember, you'll be sitting for an hour or more as the game commences.
- Please do not argue with the ref over a call. When my child was five there was a parent at a game that went crazy over a call and screamed at the referee and the opposing coach. The object of the game at that age is for the children to have fun, not be competitors. Have perspective.
- Reward yourself and your child. If the game was long, in difficult weather, or if your child played exceptionally well, take your child out to lunch/dinner after the game! Make it an occasion to have some quality time with your child.