It doesn’t matter what sort of level you or your child plays in, preparing for a soccer game is serious business. You need to have all the equipment and gear ready for the game. You also need to be warmed up physically enough to compete at your best potential.
Whatever your pre-game ritual might look like, there are a few things that you definitely should not ignore before the game. After a few games, the preparation might become sort of a ritual.
How to Prepare for a Soccer Game
In order to perform your best, you need to speed the time preparing for your game. We’ve put together our list of recommendations, including checking through your gear, hydration and nutrition, and some bonus tips.
Although you might have done it a thousand times before, there will come a time where you forget something. It’s only natural. However, with an equipment-check before you leave, you’ll lessen this risk.
Whether you are a player who has gone through it a thousand times or a soccer mom, the pre-game check is extremely important. Without specific gear not only might you feel unprepared, you might not even get to play.
Imagine you get to the game and you don’t have your youth soccer cleats to be able to compete! If you need to, have a pre-game checklist in your bag or by the door for you to check off before you leave.
- Make sure you have your team jersey, league t-shirt, shorts, and soccer socks all washed before game day. This might be beneficial to do the night before so you have time to throw them in the wash if you need to. If you’ve washed them right after your previous game, they should be ready.
- 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.
- It is also helpful to bring a change of clothes for after the game—especially if you are showering there (along with showering supplies). A towel for either the shower or to place on 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. Also, make sure you have 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, sunscreen, etc.
- If you want or have room, pack an extra pair of shin guards and an awesome pair of soccer cleats for defenders. Not only does this help your teammates out if they forgot any but also has you covered in case something happens with the first pair.
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.
What you are is what you eat. How you perform is greatly affected by what you put in your body beforehand.
- Start hydrating the day before your game. If you start getting your body hydrated right before game time, you body won’t have enough time to make sure of the liquid. Now, this doesn’t mean pounding lots of water – that is actually very dangerous. However, instead of binging on liquids on game day, make sure you are adequately hydrated prior.
- 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 sports bar or a piece of fruit in your bag just in case.
- Be properly hydrated, sipping on water before the game and daily. If you want, pack a sports drink for after the game to replenish your electrolytes.
- Avoid heavy meals in general, both before and after games. These heavy products, such as foods high in fat, are much harder for your body to break down. And, they tend to leave you feeling a little gross once you get your heart rate elevated. Maintaining a good diet in general can help you become fit for soccer.
It can be a tough balance to make sure you don’t over-eat or under-eat before a game, and they same can be said for hydration. Everyone’s body is different, and so you’ll have to find what is best for you specifically.
Warming up your body prepares you for the game, and helps to ensure you don’t get injured. A lot of people, especially when they are young, don’t “feel” the benefits of warming up, and start to become lax in their warms ups (or even stop).
Don’t make this mistake – establish a good warm up routine, and ensure you stick to it before each and every game. Your muscles are going to be going through an intense workout, with lots of twists, turns, ball controlling, and quick movements, and you want to be sure they are ready to go without hurting themselves.
Make sure you are stretching out all of the muscle groups in your legs, including your calfs, 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 very similar to high knees, but 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 you 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 that activity as if there was a ladder to work around.
As if you had a ladder on the ground, work your feet in and out of the ladder rungs, alternating feet 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 muscle, 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 game is serious business. Although you might be playing in a rec league like the best players and defenders of all time, not preparing properly for the game can lessen the enjoyment of actually playing in it. If you are not rested well or warmed-up properly, you can possibly 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 preparing but is extremely important
- If you are wondering about the weather, you can always check before you go. Refer to the team “mom” or coach if you are doubting the continuation of the game.
- Get enough sleep the night before. This may look different for everyone. In situations like tournaments where you might be tempted to go off with teammates, however, act smart. 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 own way. Especially if you are coming back from an injury, it’s important to effectively warm yourself up
Prepare to Play
Soccer is not only a physical sport. It is also mental. These pre-game preparations may also help you “get in the zone” mentally.
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.