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Being a travel soccer player has been a huge part of my life since I was six years old. I've played on a variety of leagues throughout my life, and even into my early 20s, I'm still going strong. Currently, I'm in a travel club team, and let's just say we're dominating.
A lot of people (mostly parents), find the notion of joining a travel soccer team rather daunting. The constant traveling, for starters, is a bit jarring at first, despite the fact that that's LITERALLY what you're signing up for. It's just a lot more taxing than one might initially think. After all, we're not MLS athletes that are getting paid to do it. In fact, it's quite the opposite.
Still, there are plenty of things one can do to help alleviate the situation just a bit. There is a variety of things every travel soccer player needs to have—accessories, resources, etc. I'll go through some of the things that I personally have found helpful during my time as a travel soccer enthusiast, and hopefully some of the knowledge I bestow on my fellow footballers will help alleviate some of the uncertainty of joining a league.
A Soccer Ball, Dingus
I had to include dingus in this section because, well, it's pretty much common sense, but you'd be surprised just how many youth soccer players forget this simple tip. Whether it's a regular ball you store in the trunk of your car, or a mini one in your backpack, having a ball is important for casual practice in between games, and for bonding with teammates in general. If you're using it for strictly practice, I'd suggest looking into some of the best soccer balls for training for the time being.
A Practice Jersey
Don't forget your practice jersey! Obviously, this comes in handy for both regular practice and whatever you choose to do on the side. If you forget your practice jersey, you might not get a chance to participate in practice scrimmages; or worse yet, you might not get to practice at all. Anyone with a high level of competitiveness knows the importance of practice (other than Allen Iverson), so making sure you have your practice jersey is an absolute must.
A Game Jersey
Arguably more important than your practice jersey is your game jersey. How can you actually play in the game WITHOUT YOUR JERSEY?! This is pretty obvious, but you can't discount the value of showing off your team spirit.
Building off of this, it's also a good idea to bring some old game jerseys from other leagues you might have played in—be it high school varsity, other travel leagues, etc. This is a good way to strike up conversation with other players and potentially network. If you're looking for ways to play soccer year round, this could serve as a potential "in" for other leagues.
A Water Bottle
Hydration is the name of the game, especially for a heavy cardio sport like soccer. Hydration is even more important when it comes to young players, as their bodies are still growing and require a vast amount of nutrients. My recommendation would be one of those Brita bottles that filters tap water. That way, they can always run off to a bathroom and refill it when needed. Plus, it's better for the environment than going out and buying the single use plastic ones.
Shin guards are perhaps the most important accessory a young soccer player can have. Nothing is more painful than getting kicked in the shin with a cleat, so make sure this is packed up in order to avoid any disastrous—and painful—injuries. I'm a midfielder, so I personally like to use some of the best lightweight shin guards, but it's entirely up to preference—and position.
Having a good pair of soccer shoes is also a must-have for both practice and games. Regardless of the age group, you can't really cheap out on footwear—especially for a sport that requires non-stop running—so make sure your child (or you) has a pair of the best soccer cleats available. If you're unsure as to what kind of shoes you might need, make sure you look into tips for buying soccer cleats.
As sweaty as soccer players get, having a cooling towel, as well as some dry towels, can certainly help for post-game recovery. Maybe even bring some extra for your teammates—I'm sure they'll appreciate the gesture immensely.
Traveling without any sort of food is probably a horrible idea. Again, this might seem like common sense, but you can't imagine the amount of times I've had to spot my teammates/friends a protein bar for times games ran over in overtime and we weren't back for dinner. Whether it's fresh fruit, leftovers, or a pre-packaged protein bar, make sure you or your child has enough food to last them through a long game or practice.
Where are you going to store all of these items, you ask? Well a backpack is a good place to start. Obviously not everything is going to fit in there, so you're going to have to use this at your own discretion. Regardless, it's a must-have for trips both long and short. Heck, I bring a backpack almost anywhere I go anyway.
Extra Gear to Give Away
Perhaps the best way to make friends in a travel soccer league is to bring some of your old gear that may not fit, or you just don't want, and give it away to some of your teammates. The thing I've learned about travel soccer over the years is that it goes much further than just soccer field, so doing a few good deeds here and there will certainly go a long way. This one might be a little bit of a stretch, because, let's face it, not EVERYONE has extra gear, but if you do happen to have some things to spare (at the very least snacks or training equipment), you should bring them along with you. I'd say that's it for the things every travel soccer player needs to have. Then again, you can never be too prepared, so make sure to keep your mind open for any other items as well!