How to Prepare for a Soccer Game
Soccer players typically take getting ready for the game fairly seriously. At the adult level, the game lasts 90 minutes, and that’s a long, long time to try to compete athletically if you misplaced a critical element of gear or have neglected your warmup. Once you have a well-packed game-day bag, though, and good preparation habits in place, the process of preparation becomes relatively straightforward.
Launder your team jersey or league T-shirt and shorts, matching soccer socks, and athletic undergarments at the latest on the night before your game -- and ideally, a week earlier, immediately after each game. Place your cleats or indoor shoes in your gear bag, as well as soccer sandals and a change of shirt for after the game, league or referee fees, the league schedule, a signed medical waiver if required, and an energy bar and bottled water. Avoid leaving these tasks to the last minute, which can lead to a panicked arrival late to a game with the wrong jersey in hand or none at all.
Pack a top-quality and a practice-grade pair of shin guards. The first pair allows you to take the field legally, and the second serves as a backup for you or a less-prepared teammate if either of you misplace your shin guards.
Inventory your gear bag for a first-aid kit containing items including aspirin, bandage strips, athletic tape, sunscreen, elastic wraps, antiseptic wipes and plastic bags for crushed ice, and top off any supplies that you are low on. Include an inhaler if you have asthma, and ankle supports or knee braces if you have chronic injuries. Add nail clippers in the event that you notice before half-time chafing in your tight soccer shoes.
Eat your last full meal about three hours before the game and a light snack about an hour before. Dress at home in your game gear except for your shin guards and cleats, and any ankle or knee supports. Wear street shoes to the game. Allow time to get to the venue ideally about 45 minutes early, allowing extra time for potential traffic delays. Check league telephone recordings for outdoor field conditions if the weather is iffy and call indoor arenas if snow and ice is on the road to see if your game is still scheduled.
Change into cleats and ankle or knee supports when you arrive at the field. Take the field about 25 minutes before the game and warm up with cariocas, butt kickers, high knees and jogging across the field. Pair off with your teammates to do assisted hamstring curls and other elements of the officially sanctioned FIFA 11+ warmup, designed to prevent soccer injuries.
Form a large circle on the field and practice passing on the ground and in the air to your teammates, if you are a field player. If you are a goalie, recruit one or two forwards to shoot grounders and waist-high and above balls to you in goal. Take this time to focus mentally on your priorities and goals for the game, and practice positive self-talk to bring your best to the game ahead.
Draw up a lineup if you are a player-coach and present it to the players just before the opening whistle. Prepare two or three pointers based on previous encounters with your opponent, such as working the ball on the wings, going in directly to score, or marking a particularly dangerous forward.
- Coaching Youth Soccer; American Sport Education Program with Sam Snow
- Focused for Soccer; Bill Beswick
An award-winning writer and editor, Rogue Parrish has worked at the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and at newspapers from England to Alaska. This world adventurer and travel book author, who graduates summa cum laude in journalism from the University of Maryland, specializes in travel and food -- as well as sports and fitness. She's also a property manager and writes on DIY projects.