One thing I just do not get about the American soccer season is why we play so heavily during June and July. These are typically extremely hot and humid months in NJ and to make it more confusing, in travel soccer we don’t hold leagues, we host tournaments that ask players to play 4 games in a weekend. Even our professional league plays through the heat in cities like Houston and Orlando, when our local teams in Philly, NYC, and Harrison are already hot enough. Other than wind, hot and humid is the worst form of soccer weather, and definitely the most dangerous. Coaches, parents, and players specifically need to prepare themselves for hot weather soccer and this article is here to give you some ideas of how to do just that.
- Water – and lots of it… I always tell my players prior to competition that you need to start focusing on your water consumption a day or two prior, especially in hot weather. The general rule of thumb is take your body weight and multiply it by 2/3 to find how many ounces you should drink a day. For example, if you way 150 lbs. that would be 100 ounces of water a day. Although that’s a normal day, when you are not training or playing and using all the water your cells would generally store. For hot weather events, players should consume a minimum of 100% of their body weight in water (150 lbs = 150 ozs of water). Remember, this is over the course of the day, and water should be sipped, not chugged. Your body can only handle so much water at one time regardless of how hot it is, and needs time to absorb. However, this is so key to avoid heat exhaustion or stroke which I have seen both as a coach and player when I was young.
*Gatorade is fine and good for you during or after a game to replenish essential electrolytes too. Just remember that your body is 55-60% water, not Glacier Freeze.
2. Find Shade in between and during games – I know this extremely hard at Tuckahoe and at Fort Dix finding a spot under a tree means having an early kickoff. Getting out of the sun cannot be overlooked, as it cools down the internal body temperature as well as the obvious benefit of preventing sun burn. I do love that tournaments are now littered with tents like the ones shown on the right, but when are people going to wise up and advertise on these things? I always ask my team parents during the summer months “who is bringing the tent.” As between games and on the sideline during it is a nice respite for the players who are working so hard under the intense heat of the sun.
*Tents are even evolving, and KwikGoal now offers this one:
3. Rest before, between, and after games. Is your child getting enough sleep? This is key to prep the body for any soccer event and even more so during the hot weather months. However the time I am most focused on is in between games. I know it is near impossible to keep the kids still and out of the sun for those 3 hour game breaks that can be so cruel and keep you at the fields all day! However, keeping them entertained and off their feet will conserve energy and help boost performances during the game. I know as a coach when I come back to my team playing soccer, or tag, or just chasing one another in between games I give them the look like “what are you doing?!?!” The kids should be together and socialize and if I was a parent with the big van and the DVD player I would invite as many as I can inside to just relax and watch a movie.
4. Keep players out of the pool! It seems like a good idea to cool off in between games right? but if they are swimming, playing, and jumping off the diving board, players are expending a lot of energy and still in the sun. If they are sitting still in the pool, OK, maybe it is a good idea, but do you think your kids can really do that? Save it for after the game.
5. Manage Game Time – This is something coaches really need to think about over the course of a game, day, and tournament. How hard are you working your kids? How many minutes are they playing? What are their energy levels like during the game? These are all things coaches should be in tune with and should pay close attention to in each individual. I have kids that I know just do not perform well in the heat, but typically are important players on the team. I give these players, as well as everyone else more frequent rests and keep my substitutions rolling. This is also an opportunity to challenge players with some different positions as midfielders are generally covering the most ground and can get a rest creatively by shifting to defense or forward. As a coach it may be wise to keep a minutes tally on your players for each game, each day, and the total weekend to make sure you are not pushing kids too far. After all player health should be the greatest concern of any coach and June/July in NJ brings a different set of challenges that everyone should be aware of due to excessive heat and humidity that drives many smart families to our beautiful shore.