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Once upon a time, I was a youth soccer player, going from league to league and annoying the crap out of my parents in the process. Throughout my young playing career, there were tons of things I wish I did differently. Mostly, when it comes to preparation.
I was a great player, don't get me wrong, but I was always the kid that didn't have his jersey, or forgot to bring his water bottle to practice. I'd always be bumming off of my friends, coaches, whatever. It wasn't my parents' fault either—they implored, even begged me not to forget my gear, but I was always too thick-headed to take heed of their instructions.
Luckily, I've learned from my mistakes as a youth, and am here to impart my wisdom on kids and parents who are new to the sport (or just generally unprepared like I was). We'll go through some of the must haves for youth soccer players, just so you guys don't have to go through the same embarrassment I faced as a child.
Trust me, you don't want to feel how I felt.
Soccer balls should be a staple in the home of any youth soccer player. I prefer the Wilson traditional soccer ball, and not because I'm a huge Tom Hanks fan—it's just a classic, reliable ball that I've used most of my life. When I was playing youth soccer, I literally kicked everything but a ball around—water bottles, cans—any trash really. Once my parents finally got me my own ball for Christmas, I realized that I was missing out on valuable training outside of soccer practice. I was so foolish!
For young players, or any athlete, really, hydration is a huge part of the game. For a while, I'd either A) bring one Poland Spring water bottle to practice or B) Not bring one. Sure, there was always tap water available, but I refused to drink it, and I oftentimes cramped up due to dehydration.
Once I got older, I realized the importance of not only bringing a water bottle to all my practices, but everywhere I went in general. Now, you rarely find me without one. Grab your kid a sporting water bottle now before they potentially suffer the same dehydration effects I did.
General safety is another important component of both practice and game situations. I'm not sure if you've ever been kicked in the shin by a soccer cleat but it certainly hurts like a bit...err...bug bite. There was a point in time where I did not own a pair of shin guards, and that was really dumb in and of itself. Make sure your child has shin guards, because you're not going to want to tend to their injuries after every practice. This goes double for defensive players, so you're going to want to look for some of the best shinguards for defenders if your child plays the high-risk position.
First Aid Kit
Whether you bought shin guards or not, your child is going to need first aid for one reason or another. Obviously, protective gear is a solid preventative measure, but there is still like a 99.7 percent chance your child is going to suffer from some sort of minor injury down the road. Grabbing a few first aid kits is certainly a good place to start.
I'm not sure if there is anything on the planet (other than maybe Cardi B's laugh) that's more annoying then getting 500 bug bites during a routine soccer practice. Once I was a bit older, I realized I should have been bringing some generic bug spray to both practice and games. Insect repellent is one thing that's easy to forget about, but luckily, you have me to remind you. You can thank me later.
Obviously, soccer cleats are a must have for any youth soccer player. I mean, you do realize you can't play soccer without cleats, right? It's probably a good idea not to cheap out on these, but you also don't have to buy the most expensive soccer cleats in the world. Luckily, kids' soccer shoes don't really go for much. Some soccer cleats for kids can run as low as $10, depending on the size. Chances are though, you'll probably have to pay around $30 for a pair—still hardly breaking breaking.
I know I really ticked off my parents when I wore all of my nice clothes outside while I was kicking the ball (or trash) around the yard. Looking back, I should've picked up a few practice pinnies that I could've worn to avoid making my mom (who was an AWESOME soccer mom, I might add) wash my clothes day in and day out. Sure, you usually get practice jerseys from whatever league you join, but you also don't want to consistently dirty that one up before practice. Getting a few scrimmage vests is good for both casual play outside, as well as some high-intensity scrimmages among friends.
Well this is kind of another no-brainer. You can't really wear soccer cleats without wearing some kind of high socks underneath. Not only are soccer socks great from a comfort standpoint, but when it comes to playing in inclement weather, they're a game-changer. And I mean that both literally and figuratively.
Building off the whole "practice pinnie" thing, it's also pretty imperative to have an assortment of shorts to knock around in. You're not going to want to dirty up your game shorts ahead of the match, so getting some soccer-friendly practice shorts are essential for anyone on a youth soccer team.
Last but not least, we have the mother of all soccer gear—the soccer bag itself. I mean, how else are you going to lug all of the things you should always carry with you? You can either opt for a traditional duffel bag, drawstring bag, or a soccer bag backpack that's kind of a mix between a backpack and a drawstring. Whichever one you choose, it's definitely one of the top must haves for youth soccer players. Just be sure to choose wisely!