Even though soccer doesn’t appear to be as violent as some other sports, anyone who has played understands it’s a very physically demanding game that tests the body no matter your age or physical condition. ¶But for anyone prepared for the physical test, playing soccer can also be a richly rewarding experience that can keep you in shape, help you meet a few new friends, and allow your competitive juices to flow deep into your life. Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you’re looking to join a soccer league, whether you’re a newbie to the sport or looking to get back into mix after a hiatus.
Warm-up properly and know the field conditions.
While we would all love to simply show up and hop on the field like we might have at a young age, skipping a proper warm-up is the easiest way for an adult to create a range of possible soccer injuries. Even for a mildly competitive league, showing up early enough to get in some basic aerobic exercises like a light jog or skipping can be a great primer for your muscles before you begin to stretch. It’s also critical to remember that you shouldn’t be doing any serious cutting or sprinting in a pre-game routine unless you’re fully warmed up. For stretching, focusing on groins, calves, hamstrings and quads will get you headed in the right direction, but you should also take the time to stretch out any part of your body that you’ve had a problem with in the past. Players also need to remember to hydrate throughout the day and not wait until pregame warmups to start chugging down liquids, as dehydration can be a serious concern that can undercut even the most thorough pregame stretching routine.
Beyond stretching basic muscles and hydrating, players also need to remember to take care of ankles, as ankle sprains and breaks tend to be the top soccer-related injuries. Non-professional leagues are frequently played on sub-par fields too, which can mean holes and uneven surfaces that increase your chances of an ankle injury. However, doing simple ankle rolls or placing your foot on top of a soccer ball and applying gentle pressure can help get your ankles ready to go for game time. It’s also very important to utilize the downtime you have on the field as well, especially if you didn’t get a chance to run through a typical pregame routine. While you should always keep your eye on the ball, a savvy player can squeeze in some last-second stretches and light warm-ups whenever there is a break in the action or the ball is not in the vicinity. Warmed up muscles and joints not only resist injury but they will help you perform significantly better, allowing you to focus on what your goal-scoring dance is going to be instead of upping your chances of landing in the E.R.
Take a little time to find the right equipment.
Considering that soccer is only a hobby for most of us in an adult league, it can be tempting to pick up the cheapest equipment possible just to get you onto the field. But you also shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that buying the most expensive shin guards and cleats available will automatically protect you from injury. For shin guards/pads, you want to find the perfect balance between tight and loose, which will likely require you to head out to a sporting goods store to try on a few varieties and test your maneuverability. While some heavy-duty pads might not be appropriate for your league, some very basic lightweight ones can also leave you well short of the protection that you need. As for cleats, it’s a good idea to pick up a pair well ahead of your first game and possibly even do some light workouts to break them in, which can decrease the chances of blisters or foot injuries. Although plenty of sports equipment can be picked up online, soccer equipment – particularly for a new player – is usually best to be at least tried out in person. You also might not want to skip the mouth guard either, as your teeth will likely thank you later.
Establish a postgame routine.
It can be very tempting after a long game of sprinting around to simply find the nearest seat and stay there until the exhaustion wears off. However, your body simply isn’t meant to go from full-steam to a dead stop once the whistle sounds, which is why taking just 10-15 minutes after a game to cool down is a great way for your body to get the most out of the experience. Doing the same light aerobic exercise as you did before the game is all that you really need to help prevent blood pooling in the legs or excessive muscle tightening. What you ingest is also vital to a postgame routine as well, particularly what you drink. Instead of gulping down popular sports drinks loaded with sugar, going with something like coconut water or even chocolate milk can provide all the nutrients your body needs to recover without the downside. There’s also nothing wrong with keeping it simple and sticking with water once you’re done cooling down your muscles.
Know your competition level and find the right league.
Not knowing the competition level before signing up for a league can go wrong in a variety of different ways. In a friendly or mostly non-competitive league, running around like it’s the World Cup isn’t going to gain you any friends, and the chances of you hurting yourself (or someone else) will substantially increase. On the other end of the spectrum, joining a highly competitive league when you’re just looking for a little exercise is another recipe for disaster that could lead to aches and injury. Particularly if you haven’t played in a while, or if you’re new to soccer, doing a little research beforehand to make sure you know what you’re signing up for is a crucial first step to having a positive experience in an adult soccer league.
The good news is that leagues are popping up all over and it has never been easier to find a competition level that is a good fit. With indoor, outdoor and beach options as well as full-field versus half-field leagues, getting into soccer as an adult is as easy as a localized internet search.
Finally, you wouldn’t be able to fully enjoy your hobby without the right coverage. As injuries on the field are a dime-a-dozen, you want to be rest assured that you have someone looking over your shoulder if you do get wounded. This is where Emerge comes in. We provide you with accidental injury insurance for as low as $7/month. Receive a cash benefit paid directly to you and when you recover, go back to the field or maybe try another sport. Emerge is all about helping you live your fullest life within your imagination.