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The game of soccer is a fast-paced sport that requires a lot of stamina, speed, and endurance. Players need to be prepared for the physical demands of the game by practicing their skills and conditioning themselves. Learning how to prepare for a soccer game can make the difference between success and failure.
How to Prepare for a Soccer Game
To perform your best as a soccer player, you need to take the time to adequately prepare for your game. We’ve put together our list of recommendations, including checking through your gear, hydration, and nutrition, to help you make the most of your preparation process.
Although you might have done it a thousand times before, checking your gear before a game is crucial. There will come a time when you forget something. It’s only natural. You can never forget anything if you check your equipment before a game.
Imagine you get to the game, and you don’t have your youth soccer cleats to be able to play! If you need to, you can make a pre-game checklist and put it in your bag or paste it by the door, so you can see it before you leave.
- Make sure you have your team jersey, league t-shirt, shorts, and soccer socks all washed before game day.
- When you are packing your bag, make sure to have a separate area or bag for your cleats or indoor shoes. This bag can double as a place to stick your dirty clothes after the game. You should also bring your shinguards and whatever extra gear you need (tape for ankles or socks and ankle guards). Include your goalie gloves if needed, and also bring sandals just in case you want to remove your shoes or if you are showering after the game.
- It is also helpful to bring a change of clothes for after the game—especially if you are showering there. You’ll need a towel for either the shower or the seat of your car if you’re muddy. You’ll also need to always pack some sort of snack—an energy bar and bottled water.
- Some other accessories to pack would be headphones and your phone to listen to music. Ensure you have a proper sports bra and sliders if you need those to play. If you want, have a small first aid kit with pre-wrap, extra hair ties, brush, band-aids, inhaler, tape, and sunscreen.
- If you want or have the room, pack an extra pair of shin guards and a good pair of soccer cleats. This can come in handy if any of your teammates forget anything or if you need spares.
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An extremely important part of pre-game preparation is being fueled to compete. Having enough energy and the proper type of energy is just as important as the game itself.
- Start hydrating the day before your game. If you start getting your body hydrated right before game time, you won’t be properly hydrated. Now, this doesn’t mean pounding lots of water at once – that is actually dangerous. Pace yourself and drink water regularly throughout your day.
- Your last full meal should be three hours before your game time. An hour before, you can munch on a pre-game snack to avoid feeling hungry during your game. Always pack a nutrition bar or a piece of fruit in your bag just in case. Consider loading up on carbs to help increase your performance out on the field.
- Avoid heavy meals in general, both before and after games. These are usually high in fat, are much harder for your body to break down. Maintaining a good diet, in general, can help you become fit for soccer.
It can be a tough balance to ensure you don’t over-eat or under-eat before a game, and the same can be said for hydration. Everyone’s body is different, so we recommend you consult with a nutritionist or your coach to find out what’s best for you specifically.
Warming up your body prepares you for the game and helps to ensure you don’t get injured. Many people, especially when they are young, don’t “feel” the benefits of warming up and start to get lazy with their warm-ups or even quit doing them.
Don’t make this mistake – establish a good warm-up routine, and ensure you stick to it before every game. Your muscles are going to be going through an intense workout, with lots of:
- ball controlling
- quick movements
You want to be sure they are ready to go, so you don’t hurt yourself.
Make sure you are stretching out all of the muscle groups in your legs, including your calves, quads, and hamstrings. Hold the stretch for at least 8-10 seconds. Repeat the stretches several times, pushing a little harder and further the second time through.
While you are gently running, raise your knees as high as you can towards your upper body. You don’t need to run fast for this stretch – the goal is to really stretch out your upper leg muscles.
Don’t do this exercise until you have already performed general stretching on your leg muscles.
Butt kickers are actually similar to high knees, only in reverse. For this exercise, while lightly running, you are going to kick your heels upwards toward your butt. If you can, follow through and have your heels kick your buttox.
High knees and butt kickers are a common 1-2 exercise to warm up for soccer, football, and basketball. For high-intensity sports, this will do a great job of loosening up your upper legs for the game.
High Knee Lift
A high knee lift is best done while slowly walking forwards and stretches out your quad and hip flexors. Kick your knee up as high as you can while walking, and then follow through by pulling your leg and toe up.
Add a kick out and away from your body to further stretch your hip flexor. Rotate back and forth between your left foot and right foot as you walk.
The ladder scissors is an exercise that will loosen up and stretch your hip muscles, which are key in a soccer game. You don’t actually need a ladder to perform this – you can just mimic as if there was a ladder to work around.
Work your feet in and out of the ladder rungs, alternating as you go. This will create an oscillating pattern for your legs and hips that really helps to loosen them up.
Side to Side Groin Stretch
Along with the hamstrings, soccer players are prone to pulling their groin muscles, so this is a good stretch to help prevent that.
Spread your legs far apart and, while your feet are firmly planted, move your body back and forth from side to side, positioning your body over top of each foot before going back to the other.
This side-to-side action will stretch your groin out. The more intensely you perform the exercise, the deeper the stretch you will get.
Extra Preparation Tips
A soccer game is a serious business. Not preparing properly for the game can lessen the enjoyment of actually playing it. If you are not rested well or warmed up properly, you can get injured.
Here are a few extra tips to make sure you cross off your pre-game list before you head out onto the field. Especially if you are dealing with some unforeseen circumstances like weather or traffic, it’s always good to try and be as prepared as possible.
- Be on time. To do so, you’ll need to give yourself enough time to go through traffic or sort out public transportation. This may take some extra thinking or preparation.
- If you are wondering about the weather, you can always check before you go.
- Get enough sleep the night before. This may look different for everyone. In situations like tournaments where you might be tempted to go out with teammates, make smart choices. Recognize that your body needs a good night’s sleep to perform well.
- Warm up properly before the game. Although most teams have this covered, you might want to warm up individually in your way. Especially if you are coming back from an injury, it’s important to effectively warm yourself up.
Here are some frequently asked questions about preparations for a soccer game.
How Do You Mentally Prepare for a Soccer Game?
Many athletes perform mindful activities such as self-talks and yoga. These positive exercises help the athlete’s mind to flush negative thoughts out of their brain. This helps them overcome anxiety and nervousness.
What Should I Eat 3 Hours Before a Game?
Good options for your pre-game meal are simple foods with high carbohydrates and protein. For example, you can eat bread, turkey, cheese, fruits, and yogurt.
Also, remember to always avoid fatty and spicy foods as they could make you feel bloated and slow.
Should I Shower Before a Soccer Game?
Yes, in fact, a pre-game cold shower is considered to be beneficial for your body. This is because it enhances your body’s endurance to high-level activities, such as running and jumping.
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Even though you don’t have to go through everything on this list, try and develop a ritual that works for you. Each player is different, so find something that works for you and stick with it.