So your outdoor season is winding down as winter approaches, but you have a few more games left until the season is finished. The weather is starting to cool down and morning games can be quite chilly, but that doesn’t stop soccer games from being played. A major key to enjoying these types of games is wearing the right gear and preparing properly before and during the game.
I don’t enjoy being cold, and I have been unprepared in the past, so I made a list of some ways to keep you and your players warm during. Just thought this would be helpful for anyone who might be experiencing the same thing.
The most logical thing people do it gets cold outside is layer up, which is pretty straightforward. The tricky part comes when you have to play a soccer game. This isn’t skiing, so you have to be able to move effectively and run efficiently. Wearing a large parka might be useful for the sidelines, but doesn’t help the players that need to wear a uniform and sprint across a field. So, I often see the opposite. Players are underdressed for cold games.
For coaches and parents, try wearing three separate layers. Each layer has a link to Amazon for you to get an idea of what to look for.
- Layer 1 – a light, long-sleeved thin shirt and undergarment. Thinner layers provide two benefits: they wick sweat better and dry faster.
- Wicking means the fabric takes the moisture on your body and moves it to the exterior of the shirt. It keeps you dry. Another option is to buy a shirt with thumbholes, which keeps air from getting in between your sleeves and gloves.
- Layer 2 – a thin middle layer, either of wool polyester or a blend of the two
- Layer 3 – a puffy jacket with a hood for water and wind resistance
This is how backpackers wear layers. I consider them the masters of layering since they experience massive fluctuations in temperature changes in a short amount of time.
For players, the goal is warmth with movability. Also, keep in mind that kids are running around. I would keep layers 1 and 2 the same for players. A jersey will go over the top of these layers.
Since soccer players, usually wear shorts. Start with a base layer like leggings and double socks. Compression garments are a great option to keep muscles warm. Then put shorts over top of the base layer.
Try to get players in the habit of overdressing for the start of the game and shedding layers as they warm up.
Staying warm is step one when it comes to cold games. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to start with dynamic warmups. Dynamic warmups are a series of movements to mimic that you will consistently use throughout a game. This is considered to be more effective than static warmups. Check out this article I wrote a while back on warm-up drills.
Ask players to arrive a little earlier than a normal game to ensure you spend adequate time getting everyone warmed up. Also, don’t forget to have your substitutions warm up after coming off the bench. Several minutes before you make a substitution, direct players to warm up on the sidelines by doing high knees or butt kicks to corner flags and back.
When a player doesn’t warm up properly, they are more prone to injury. Cold weather causes muscles to lose heat due to reduced blood flow. With reduce blood flow, muscles become shorter in length and easier to strain. This causes physical tasks more difficult to perform.
Bring Blankets For the Bench
The coldest people during the game are going to be the ones standing still like players on the bench and the coach. This comes as no surprise. But I find it fascinating that many players are shivering on the sidelines even though everyone knew the game was going to be cold.
Coaches can help out by bringing blankets for players to sit on or ask the parents to purchase them for their children. Aluminum and fabric benches get very cold quickly. One way to combat this is to sit on the blanket and wrap it around your players. This way their bottom doesn’t stay cold, which can be a problem if it is cold and wet. Wet players lose heat 35x faster than dry players. It doesn’t take long before a player off the field can get very cold.
Check out this blanket on Amazon. I recommend getting one with that folds up nicely and neatly with a strap or sleeve so it is easy to transport.
Rotate Your Keeper
Goalkeepers are the forgotten ones, especially if they aren’t seeing a lot of action. Your focus will likely be near the ball. But, in cold weather, this would mean the keeper is standing there, watching the game. The only difference is your goalkeeper can’t huddle with other players or wear a blanket on the field. It’s important to keep an eye on the goalkeeper.
Consider subbing out your keeper if they are just standing still for long periods without any action to keep them warm and reduce injuries.
If this isn’t an option, find ways to keep your goalkeeper warm such as dynamic warmups in the penalty box to stay ready for whenever a shot on goal might come.
Drink Warm Liquid
This tip is dedicated to you as a coach or any parent that might be browsing. You will likely be moving the least amount of all your players since you are on the sidelines 100% of the time. Outside of the obvious of putting on layers, bring a warm drink with you to the game. It helps warm up the body and keep your fingers and toes warm. I prefer tea or hot chocolate.
The container is even more important than the liquid. Today, there are so many great thermoses to buy on the market. My favorite is Yeti Rambler. It keeps hot drinks warm and cold drinks cool for hours. I’m always surprised at how long my drink stays hot. Once you have one you won’t want to leave the house without it.
Hydration is very important but even more important during cold games. The reason why is it is less noticeable. During a cold game, players don’t feel like they are sweating as much as normal. The cold weather is tricky because clothes absorb a lot of sweat.
Players need to sip some water when they come off the field even if they don’t feel thirsty. It is a good habit to stay hydrated. After exercise, we need to replenish the body with fluids and it keeps the body thermostat working properly.
For the cold game, I would recommend not using much ice. Ice cold water in cold weather is not refreshing, leading to players drinking less of it. Less hydrated players don’t have as much fluid in their bodies to keep them warm. I suggest water with no ice works best. Throughout the game, the water will cool down because of the outdoor temperature.
More importantly, hydration starts the day before the game. Tell parents and players to drink plenty of water the day and night before the game. If your players don’t drink enough water before the game, it is too late to try to catch up during the game.
Group Together on Sidelines
Before the game, during halftime, and after the game, bring the players in close together to huddle together. Distribute the blankets for everyone to get some warmth while you go over the tips to the game. Whatever you can do to preserve a little warmth will help along the way. Keep your pre-game and halftime talk to a minimum.
With the spare time left, let players get active again before the half starts. Movement is the solution to keeping players safe and warm. As mentioned above, dynamic stretching is a good option and add in passing or rondo drills.
Even if you are properly dressed for the game, your hands and feet can get cold. For whatever reason, my blood circulation is never very good to my toes or fingertips. They are always the first to go. I always forget to buy some but bring several packets of hand warmers with you. One never lasts a full game, but they do provide a good amount of relief.
Even though, they are called hand warmers. You can put them anywhere. Tape them on the top of your feet before putting on your clean. Put them in your gloves too.
Bring a Hat and Extra Socks
When a player isn’t in the game, they should have a pair of gloves and a hat to put on to stay warm. The head loses more heat than any other part of the body.
Wet and cold conditions are the worst. When cold water comes in contact with your body, players lose heat very fast. It only takes a few minutes before a player will start shivering. We have all experienced a time when it was cold and rainy. It isn’t pleasant for anyone involved.
As temperatures drop low, kids are at a greater risk of hypothermia and frostbite. Players should consider bringing an extra pair of socks. Then they can replace them at halftime and it can make a big difference in a player’s level of comfort.
This is an old school trick not a lot of people talk about. I always wondered why American football players wore no sleeves when it was below freezing outside. I always thought they were crazy. Come to find out there is a secret behind the madness.
Vaseline acts as another a protective layer on your skin, which keeps the sleeveless players from shivering. Players apply Vaseline to their arms and face.
The biggest downside to using this is it takes a while to scrub off after the game, but it might be worth it since there aren’t a ton of options available for your face.
Watch the Temperature
This is more a job for the referee, but this is something to keep an eye on. If the game is early in the morning or in the evening, watch the temperature. The league you coach for should have basic guidelines for weather-related cancellations.
No game is worth playing at the risk of putting the youth at risk. If the weather changes drastically from expected, speak with the referee and opposing coach on what to do next.
Gloves are useful for coaches and players. The type of gloves will be different. Player gloves will be thinner to allow for more movement and provide more grip. Soccer is a game played primarily with the feet. It is good to have gripped gloves during throw-ins. Gloves also make it much easier to use hand warmers during the game since there is something to hold them in place. Check out this pair of gripped winter gloves.
Coaches should focus on gloves with more insulation since dexterity is of least importance. If you are looking for lightweight glove with outstanding resistance to cold, consider goose down gloves. In wetter environments, snow gloves will be your best bet because it is a good combination of waterproofness, wind resistance, and insulation. The best snow gloves are made of fleece and other synthetic materials. This is an example of a pair.
When I was playing soccer as a child, I played a game in the mountains in November. To this day, I still remember how frigid the game was. I was ill-prepared and didn’t have the correct clothes.
I couldn’t feel my feet or hands the entire game. It took a while to get a feeling back. Moments like this made me realize that preparation resolves a lot of issues. Hopefully these will help you avoid these situations so you can focus on being a coach instead of the weather.
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