The season maybe winding down but youth soccer registration emails are already hitting parents email boxes. If you've had a child already participate in youth soccer then this is nothing new to you. However, for parents who are starting off on the new path of soccer moms and dads it can be a lot to figure out.
Finding the right fit for your child should be the #1 priority. It is truly an exciting yet nerve racking time for every parent when your child is ready and wants to play soccer. The game has grown so much here in the states in recent years that most communities across the US now have one or more youth soccer organization to pick from. Depending on what age your child may be or skill level there are plenty of clubs and leagues that are tailored to the meet those needs. I would recommend talking to your neighbors and other parents at your child's school. It is good way of getting advice about the available options and personal experiences they may have had. Community Centers and libraries will sometimes have flyers on community bulletin-boards advertising local youth sports organizations as well. Ultimately you want to place your child(ren) in an environment where they will be given a fair opportunity to develop and have fun. As a parent you will have to decide what your child is ready for. Many soccer leagues like the ones in the Washington, D.C metro area where I live have programs designed for children as young as 4 years old. Children at this age, through age 6, participate in various games which may seem silly at times but begin to establish the idea of movement and a slow but basic understanding of the game. Once your child reaches about 7 years of age, in some leagues, they enter into what is referred to as recreational soccer and the more competitive players play on a Travel Team. Competitive soccer teams typically form at age 9 and go as high as age 21. Though not a requirement by youth soccer leagues, I would recommend getting your child an appointment with your family doctor for a physical. Soccer can be a demanding sport for children at any age so it is best to make sure that there are no health risks that you need to be worried about before your kids start to practice.
Your child is registered with in a league and ready to play! Now what? Leagues and clubs each have their own preference with regards to the uniform your child will wear on game days. Some clubs issue a kit (jersey/shorts/socks) as part of registration. While others have partnerships with local soccer supply stores to stock specific colors and or designs.
The main equipment parents are typically responsible for are the following:
- Soccer appropriate shoes. Cleats/Flat-Soles or ridged bottom. Depends on the practice and playing surfaces used the leagues and clubs.
- Shin-guards. Be sure to get the size that best fits your child. One size does not fit all. There are various types of shin-guards you can pick from. Consider ones that also come with padding to protect the ankles. Shin-guards should be worn under socks and not over. The socks should cover them completely. Some referees do not permit a player on the field if they can see the shin-guards.
- Soccer ball. The soccer ball must be age appropriate.
- Ages 7 and under use size 3 ball.
- Ages 12 and under use size 4 ball.
- Ages 13 and up use size 5 ball.
- Water bottle. Staying hydrated is a healthy habit to reinforce. Have them bring a full bottle of water and maybe even a second one for warmer days since younger bodies will overheat more quickly than us adults. Sometimes it is good to have an extra for a teammate who may have forgotten theirs.
- Sun screen/block. If your child will practice and play outside consider a bottle or 2 for their bag.
Items you may not see on any list but important for your child. Soccer coaches and league officials should never and would never administer medication to players. If your child requires a medication before, during or after soccer related activities it is highly recommended you as the parent handle dispensing the medication. If you child wears a medical bracelet be sure to let the coach know and also make referees aware. Those are rare exceptions to the rule of no jewelry on the playing field. If your child is asthmatic and uses inhalers or has been prescribed an EpiPen. Be sure to make the coach is aware. Be sure to also read the
FAQs of your youth soccer league website for other information which may be specific to that league or club. Prepare your children properly and it will go a long way in helping them have a fun and productive soccer season.