COACHING TO SOCCER-FIELD CONDITIONS
Soccer coaches need to prepare their players to be able to respond to a wide variety of differing field conditions that they may encounter during the course of a year. Unfortunately, it’s a rare occasion when a soccer game is played under ideal conditions, such as on a perfect, natural-grass field, with clear, sunny, cool weather, and no wind. This is very important because it applies to everyone, youth to pros alike. Even the United States Men’s National Team has played World Cup qualifiers in the snow and on dirt fields with clumps of grass. In a recent NCAA Men’s College Cup semi-final, there was copious amounts of rain:
“The players navigated the sloppy conditions better than expected, but the saturated turf often stopped the ball in its tracks, particularly at one end. Long balls that should have bounced out of bounds remained in play and low shots fell well short of the destination.” – Steven Goff, The Washington Post, December 14, 2019
Beyond teaching players how to deal with various field conditions, coaches and players need to inspect the field before each match to identify and mitigate dangerous conditions or, ultimately, to determine if the field is unplayable.
Artificial Surface, Artificial Turf – The pace of the ball is faster on artificial turf than on natural turf. Ground passes, such as through balls, generally need to be struck with a lighter touch than on natural turf. In direct sunlight or on warm days, artificial turf can get very hot. Proper hydration needs to be maintained, the length of warm-ups on the surface may need to be reduced, fitness levels need to be high, and players need to be monitored for possible heat exhaustion. Substitutions should be made judicially.
Crown – Fields with high crowns (raised centers in the middle of the length of the surface to promote drainage) can cause the ball to temporarily go out of vision to a player near one sideline if the ball is on the ground at the other sideline. Any player who can’t see the ball because of this must promptly move toward the middle of the field. Also, balls on the ground coming down from the crown can actually pick up speed depending on the height of the crown.
Crumb rubber, other types of infill (cork) – Infill has the nasty habit of sticking to exposed, sweaty skin. This is essentially a nuisance. Unless the infill gets stuck near the eyes, players need to be taught that it should be ignored. Players first attempting to get rid of infill near their eyes should wipe their fingers on their jersey or shorts, close their eye, and then carefully pull the speck directly away from the eye, along the skin. Failing this, they can go to a nearby teammate. Anything in the eye needs to be addressed by a coach or trainer immediately.
Ground – Natural surfaces, depending on rain and drainage, can be considered to be hard, soft or just right. The state of the ground can determine which cleats should be worn. This is critical to prevent slippage. See “Soccer Shoes – Cleats.” Also, balls bounce higher and farther on hard surfaces and die faster on soft surfaces.
Natural grass – Soccer fields with a natural surface tend to have one of two types of grass, either a tall fescue (“Kentucky 31,” single-blade blend) or “Bermuda” (rhizome runners, browns out in winter). If properly maintained, there does not appear to be much of a difference for playability on the two surfaces. Tall, improperly cut grass, however, can slow the ball down significantly and place a drag on players’ legs that may cause cramping near the end of a match. Players need to be taught to apply more weight to the ball on ground passes.
Slope of the field – For drainage purposes, some fields are graded on a flat plane from one end to the other and some fields are graded on a tilted plane from one corner to the opposite corner. In either case, an advantage seems to accrue, if the choice is available, by selecting to go downhill in the second half.
Wet grounds, wet fields – Wet (“greasy”) soccer fields, usually due to rain, will cause the ball to skip and maintain speed, like a flat stone thrown across the surface of a pond. Players receiving a ball need to be taught that it is insufficient to just stick a foot out. Players must turn their hips and get their body squared (perpendicular) to the path of the ball in order to block it down. In addition, players must keep their legs closer together so the ball can’t go through. Goalkeepers, in particular, must practice diligently to save ground shots on wet surfaces in order to fully understand how the ball behaves. It will arrive faster and lower. Attackers need to take advantage by shooting low and more often and by sending through balls early. Goalkeepers should not use drop kicks and should have a dry towel available (kept in a plastic bag) for their gloves.
Significant standing water – Substantial depressions in a poorly-graded field can create large areas of standing water after rain (“ponds and lakes”). The size and location of these areas, particularly if they are in front of one or both goals, usually indicate that the surface is unplayable and the match should be rescheduled. League or administrative resources may have to be contacted. The referee also has a say.
Hard dirt – Compacted bald patches on a natural field will cause balls to bounce higher. In addition, ground balls will speed up while passing over these areas. Also, players’ cleats will not grip as tightly.
Soft dirt – Loose dirt can cause a ball to have less of a bounce or to slow down when passing through the area. Large patches of dirt infields are not uncommon in the United States due to natural grass fields being used for both soccer and baseball. Players are also subject to losing their footing while in contact with these areas.
Clumps or tufts of grass – On a poor natural field, bumpy mounds of grass interspersed with areas of dirt, when hit by the ball, can create strange bounces, ball hops, and even deflections. Players must be warned to not always expect straight ground passes.
Uneven surfaces – Many natural surfaces, mostly municipal fields subject to overuse, water damage or lack of maintenance, have gullies, holes, depressions (usually in front of the goals where the goalie stands), and ridges. Not much can be done about this other than to point out the anomalies to the players, caution them about possible dangers, and remind them of potentially odd ball bounces.
Weather effects – Natural grass fields are subject to the after-effects of rain, including puddles, other types of pooled water, mud and ice. The ball will just die and stick within a water puddle due to adhesion. Players need to be taught that the ball cannot be kicked out of a puddle but must be lifted (“dug”) out with the instep first. Mud will cause cleats to get stuck, even if just momentarily. Cleat selection is important. Multi-stud cleats will cause mud to collect along the entire sole, severely reducing traction. Ice can be very dangerous due to the obvious slip hazard. Small areas of ice should be broken up and covered with sand. If large areas of ice exist, the field is likely unplayable. Other effects can include limbs and twigs blown from nearby trees. These should be easily removed. A fallen tree renders the field unplayable.
Rocks, gravel – Exposed rocks and loose gravel can be dangerous to players. Exposed rocks with pointed, rather than smooth, surfaces that extrude above the level of the surface should really be dug up or chipped down. If this is not an option, a disk should be placed over the rock to ensure that it is identifiable by players. Loose gravel can behave like ice as a slip hazard. If at all possible, it must be collected and disposed of properly.
Repairs – Repairs to natural grass fields are usually found to be sand, loose dirt, or recently-laid sod that can cause poor footing or the lack of grip by cleats to the soil. Players need to be warned that they could slip on these spots.
Sprinkler heads – Protruding or un-retracted sprinkler heads (or any other kinds of pipes) on a natural surface are an extremely dangerous trip hazard. If they cannot be retracted, they render the field unplayable.
Worn artificial surface – Artificial surfaces can wear down or, worse, suffer split seams that create upraised gaps where the sewn or glued strips have come apart. Worn surfaces may create unsure footing and may be unplayable. Split seams are a serious trip hazard and the surface should not be used until it is repaired or replaced.
Dual-use for baseball – Fields used for both soccer and baseball may have pitching mounds, pitching rubbers (and holes in front of pitching rubbers), and even bases themselves within the playing area. Some of this can be removed or mitigated. An area that includes a pitching mound is essentially unplayable.
The field dimensions or the overall size of the field, based on the distances of the perimeter lines, are not identical for all fields. See “The Field of Play – Law 1” of the Laws of the Game. For a full-sized field, the minimum length of the Goal Lines (end lines) is 50 yards and the maximum length is 100 yards. The minimum length of the Touch Lines (sidelines) is 100 yards and the maximum length is 130 yards. The Goal Lines must both be of equal length and the Touch Lines must both be of equal length, but the field must always be rectangular with the Touch Lines longer than the Goal Lines. Accordingly, the size of the smallest possible field is 50 yards x 100 yards and the size of the largest possible field is 100 yards x 130 yards. Then there’s everything in between.
A common, full-sized, professional field usually approximates 75 yards wide x 120 yards long. Because players get used to the size of the field on which they practice, they must be taught to adapt their play to the size of the field on which they are playing.
Long field – Fields with lengths over 120 yards require extra fitness and knowledge that deep chips and through balls may require extra weight on the ball.
Short field – Fields with lengths less than 120 yards generally require that attacking chips and through balls are sent earlier and with less pace on the ball.
Wide field – Fields with wide widths generally require extra weight on passes outside to wide midfielders and wings. In addition, extra weight on the ball is almost always required on attacking crosses and centering passes originating near the sidelines.
Narrow field – Fields with narrow widths generally require short inter-passing and more small-group tactics. In addition, less weight is required on the ball for attacking crosses and centering passes originating near the sidelines.
Large field – A large field generally comes close to having both the maximum length and the maximum width. Accordingly, both the “long field” and the “wide field” maxims apply at the same time.
Small field – A small field generally comes close to having both the minimum length and the minimum width. Accordingly, both the “short field” and the “narrow field” maxims apply at the same time.
Severe conditions – The existence or threat of dramatic weather such as hurricanes, tropical storms, tornados, severe winds, and blizzards are direct causes for cancellation of matches. Coaches must be properly aware of weather forecasts. Phone weather alerts, and weather and radar apps should be placed on mobile devices.
Lightning and Thunder – Lightning is extremely dangerous on open soccer fields. The same safety guidance used for outdoor swimming pools should be applied to fields regarding lightning and thunder. Any evidence of lightning requires immediate evacuation to truly safe areas: cars or buildings, NOT UNDER TREES or canopies; cars, nothing exposed. Thunder indicates vigilance for lightning and fields should be promptly vacated. Continued thunder during or after passage of a storm should start or re-start a “clock” of at least 30 minutes before resumption of play (USSF standard).
Cold – Temperatures at or below approximately 40° Fahrenheit require supplemental clothing to properly stay warm. Players must have adequate training suits, coats, hats and gloves, and undergarments, as needed. In addition, all players must have the proper equipment to satisfy the requirements of Law 4, “The Players’ Equipment,” of the Laws of the Game pertaining to warm underclothing matching the colors of shirts and shorts.
Dew – Whether on the field in the morning or forming at nightfall, dew on the field can have the same effect as wet grounds, particularly as ball skips are concerned. Fog, mist, and frost can create similar conditions. See “Wet grounds, wet fields” above.
Heat and Humidity – Hyperthermia can set in with combinations of high heat and high humidity. Effects on the body can be seen as dehydration, fatigue, muscle cramps, heat exhaustion, fainting, and heat stroke. (Heat Exhaustion s the body overheating. Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include heavy sweating, a rapid pulse, headache, dizziness and confusion, feeling sick, pale and clammy skin, cramps or vomiting. Heat Stroke is a life-threatening condition requiring immediate emergency response. The body tends to stop sweating and the body’s temperature can go over 104°F within 10 to 15 minutes. Symptoms of heat stroke include dry skin, lethargy, inability to respond to requests, and feinting. Players must be properly hydrated at all times. Coaches must be ever vigilant as temperature and humidity levels rise and postpone or abandon games accordingly. Heat is a special consideration for artificial surfaces. See the National Weather Service Heat Index Chart: www.nws.noaa.gov/om/heat/heat_index.shtml
Rain – In and of itself, light to moderate rain may have minimal impact upon a game. The impact can be significant, however, if the intensity increases or as the field surface becomes more and more wet. See the sections on wet grounds, significant standing water, weather effects, and wet balls.
Snow – Light, “conversational,” snowfall and flurries generally do not have much of an impact on a game. Snow becomes problematic, however, when it accumulates and the ball starts to become stuck on ground passes or the lines cannot be seen. At this point, the field becomes unplayable. Ironically, packed snow can be playable as long as the lines are painted in a contrasting color, such as orange, and the ball is brightly colored. In addition to utilizing proper cold-weather gear, players need to use undersocks and be taught how to properly warm their feet back up after participation.
Wind – Light winds or breezes generally do not affect play. Strong winds require accommodation based on the orientation of the field in relation to the direction of the wind and which way the players are attacking or defending. When the winds are blowing parallel to the field, attackers with the wind at their back will experience flighted balls going longer and must take pace off the ball. Defenders with the wind at their back will experience flighted balls coming from opponents that do not travel as far as expected and must go to meet them. Attackers and defenders going into the wind need to kick balls harder and lower than usual. Goalkeepers facing into the wind have to be concerned about balls that may be more likely to go over their heads. Goalkeepers with the wind at their backs may experience balls that “hang up,” giving more time for both teammates and opponents to arrive, often creating a crowd. In either case, an advantage seems to accrue, if the choice is available, by selecting to go with the wind in the second half. Winds blowing perpendicular to the field also cause balls to hang in the air when going into the wind and go long when going with the wind. Attackers crossing the ball into the wind should kick the ball low and hard. Attackers crossing the ball with the wind should take weight off the ball. Defenders may experience crossed balls into the wind that hang up and crossed balls with the wind that may go over their heads.
Because of their presence and effect on a game, the referee and assistant referees may be considered to be just as much a part of “field conditions” as other factors.
Failure to appear – Players and parents should be informed of the administrative procedures that are to be implemented if referees and assistant referees do not show up for a match. See “Contingency Planning.”
Rebounds – The ball remains live if it hits a referee or assistant referee inside the field of play and stays inside the field of play. Players must be taught to react immediately to this occurrence just like they would to a rebound from the goal or from a corner flagpost. Referees make every attempt to keep from getting hit by the ball, including jumping over it. Players must be made aware of this possibility, as well, and to not improperly anticipate either a rebound or a jump-over.
Referee calls – Although all referees groups strive for consistency, referees are human and bring differences to their interpretations of what they see, both in their decisions and their applications of the Laws to a game. Some of these differences become apparent shortly after a game begins, especially if there is a lot of contact. For example, some referees may be more prone to start issuing yellow cards immediately while others may wait too long. Players must play in a fair and judicious manner no matter what. They must be warned away from reacting to referees’ decisions in an emotional state that may cause harm to the team by getting an avoidable card. For less-challenging situations, players may need to simply recognize that a referee may be calling “this or that,” “one way or the other,” such as the application or lack of application of advantage, and to modify their play accordingly. (See “The Advantage Rule – Part of Law 5”)
Assistant referee offside calls – Assistant referees are also human and some are better than others when it comes to properly recognizing a possible offside situation quickly and correctly raising, or not raising, their flag. Players must be taught never to assume that the flag will go up or that, if the flag does go up, the referee will acknowledge and agree with the decision by blowing the whistle. Accordingly, players must actively keep playing until they hear a whistle, i.e., “play to the whistle.” If an assistant referee seems to be consistently calling offside in cases where the players do not think the calls are correct, attacking players must be taught to adjust or hold their runs in order to keep from killing attacks. Similarly, defenders must never assume that an offside will be called and stop defending, just to have the assistant referee not raise the flag.
Ad boards, “dasher” boards – Many fields are surrounded by hard signage or electronic advertising boards unfortunately placed too near the field. Similarly, “dasher” boards may exist to keep balls from going too far away from the field of play. Players often will jump over these devices when their momentum takes them hard at the boards. Players must be aware of what is on the other side of these boards in advance in order to ensure that the have a safe place to land. Players should be instructed to look at the grounds on the outside of these boards when they perform their field-perimeter walk-through. The proximity of fences should also be noted.
Drainage ditches – Hopefully, swales intended to move rainwater away from fields have gentle slopes or are well away from the field of play. Sharply-graded drainage ditches near fields must be noted in advance by players. All drainage ditches may lead to open culverts, however, that can potentially be extremely dangerous, whether they are exposed or have drainage grates. Exposed openings in close proximity to a field, including those with grates, should be covered by brightly-painted plywood or some other similar material. Further, they should be marked with cones.
Running tracks – Soccer fields often exist inside of running tracks. The tracks, in and of themselves, generally are far enough from the field of play and do not present a problem, unless players try to run across them wearing their cleats. Running on tracks in soccer cleats is like running on ice. This is worse if the tracks are wet. Players must be taught to always walk slowly across tracks while wearing their cleats. This is equally true for sidewalks, no matter if they are made of concrete or asphalt.
People around the field – There are many authorized and unauthorized persons who may be around a field. Players need to be taught to be cognizant of both. Ball persons and photographers are authorized and mostly provided with instructions on where they should be located. Unfortunately, many fields have no fixed accommodations for fans and no security. Unauthorized fans on the sidelines will often congregate right up to the perimeter markings. Players should be taught that it is often okay to just let the ball go in order to avoid crashing into people.
Crazy fans – Rude, obnoxious taunts, racial slurs, cursing, drunkenness, and other stupid fan behavior is an extremely unfortunate part of many sporting events. As hard as it may be, players must be constantly reminded not to react to crazy fans and to report improper conduct to administrative or legal authorities. Thrown objects by “fans” represent a totally different problem. Players have a right to safety. Any player seeing an object being thrown at competitors should report it immediately to the Assistant Referee, Referee, and/or the coach, especially if it has not otherwise been seen by authorities. If there is a security contingent present, they should be informed at once. Fans that enter and remain on the field is cause for termination of a match.
Crowd noise – It is not unusual to play in environments that include chanting, songs, drums, vuvuzelas, and other types of noise makers. The only time this may become problematic is if the players can’t hear the team’s oral communications. Players must be taught how to adapt and to use non-verbal communication instead.
Overhanging branches – Many youth fields are surrounded by trees, some of which are so close that they may have branches that overhang the field of play. This is generally a case covered by “local rules.” For example, some local rules state that if an airborne ball hits an overhanging branch, the ball remains in play as it comes down. Players need to be instructed accordingly if this situation exists.
Sunlight – Bright sunshine only tends to become an issue when the position of the sun is directly into the eyes of the defenders, particularly the goalkeeper. Goalkeepers can experiment with the use of billed caps and “anti-glare eye-black strips.” Otherwise, the usual response of shading the eyes with one hand is quite normal. Attackers going into direct sunlight can keep the ball low and possibly avoid sending crosses to players who must see the ball coming directly out of the position of the sun. For coaches, an advantage seems to accrue, if the choice is available, by selecting to go with the sun directly into the eyes of the opposing team in the second half.
Shadows – In stadiums that experience the effects of shade from seating structures due to the position of the sun, the transition from bright sections to dark sections on the field can be quite abrupt. Little to nothing can be done about this, other than to recognize the phenomenon on vision, as the eyes adjust from one section to the other, and to prepare accordingly.
Floodlights – Artificial electric illumination for a soccer field is used so that games can be played at night or under low-light. Floodlights rarely have an effect on play except for the odd occasion of an airborne ball coming directly from the path of a light. Coaches must be prepared for the what the administrative response will be if banks, or all, of the floodlights go out.
Glare – Glare can be experienced by players from both direct sunlight and floodlights. The natural reflex to look away or to shade the eyes with the hands is usually sufficient to address the issue. Players may be informed to regularly wipe sweat away from around their eyes to reduce reflection or they may wish to try “anti-glare eye-black strips.” Like not looking directly at oncoming car headlights while driving, players may also teach themselves to use their peripheral vision accordingly. Coaches should be aware that the impact of glare may be intensified in players wearing contact lenses.
Darkness – Games where the goals are not visible from the center mark should be abandoned. Games that are clearly going to end after sunset into full darkness should not be started.
Combination goals – Field equipment designed as both soccer and American football goal posts in one unit are subject to “Local Rules.” These should require that, if the ball hits the American football crossbar or uprights, it is out of play and the referee whistles for a corner kick or goal kick to be awarded. Players must be informed of how this is supposed to work, not to assume the call, and to continue to “play to the whistle” because the referee may conclude that a rebound occurred off the soccer-goal portion.
Goal tipping – Unbalanced goals or inadequate and ineffective goal anchors are extremely dangerous. Children have been killed by falling goals. If one or both goals cannot be securely anchored, the field is unplayable.
Goal failure – Rusted, rotted, tilted goals, or goals with insecure crossbar joints, are subject to collapse. If one or both goals reflect this condition, they are subject to failure and the field should be declared unplayable.
Corner flags – If corner flags are missing, cones should be placed just at the edge of each corner, not inside the field of play. If sharp-pointed flag posts are encountered, these are extremely dangerous and should be replaced with cones. Younger players must be instructed not to remove corner flags and to never throw them like javelins.
No nets – A lack of nets is a nuisance but, depending on administrative guidance, not necessarily cause to cancel a game. Players need to be cautioned that referees can make mistakes regarding either goals being scored, or not being scored, under this condition and not to over-react. Holes in the net can actually be more problematic. Everyone seems to assume that the nets are secure, but a shot is almost guaranteed to find the one hole and may be disallowed. Although referees are taught to check the nets, they don’t generally carry repair kits. Coaches need to check and secure nets properly and players need to be instructed to inform the coach immediately if a hole or gap is found.
Shape of uprights and crossbar – Law 1, “The Field of Play,” of the Laws of the Game states that the goal may be made of square, rectangular, round or elliptical pieces. Each of these shapes may produce different types of rebounds when the ball hits them. Players, especially goalkeepers, back defenders and strikers, must be taught how to perceive and react to rebounds from each of these designs.
Extra ball on the field – A second ball on the field usually occurs when two ball persons toss balls at the same time to a player about to take a throw-in. Sometimes substitute players may inadvertently send a ball in while they are warming up. It can also happen when multiple games are occurring on parallel fields. In any case, the presence of an extra ball on the field is dangerous. Players must be aware of the presence of an extra ball and taught to wait to take a throw-in or other re-start until the ball is cleared.
Multiple game balls – If more than one game ball is used in a match, as when ball persons are available, the balls need to be all the same size, make, and model and inflated to the same pressure. All balls must conform to Law 2, “The Ball,” of the Laws of the Game.
Defective ball – Players should be taught to immediately report any ball that has lost stitching, has torn or separating panels, has developed a bubble or eruption, has gone out of round, or is overinflated or underinflated. Any defective ball needs to be replaced.
Unexpected or wrong ball size – Every so often, a different-size ball may sneak into a match instead of a proper one, usually due to coaches who have teams in different age groups. For example, a Size 4 ball may sneak into a match instead of a Size 5, or vice versa. Players should be taught the difference in ball sizes and to report game balls that are incorrect.
“Light,” “heavy,” and “sticky” balls – Law 2, “The Ball,” of the Laws of the Game establishes ranges for the circumference, the weight, and the air pressure of the ball. In addition, Law 2 states that the ball must be made of a “suitable material.” This allows some significant flexibility to manufacturers. Balls that conform to the low end of the ranges tend to feel “light” and can seem to float or “knuckle” more when airborne. Balls that conform to the high end of the ranges tend to feel “heavy” and seem to require more touch on the ball to get them to react. In addition, balls that have more plasticizer in their panels seem to more “sticky,” especially when they are brand new, and can seem to get caught on the surface of the shoe while dribbling. Players need to be exposed to all of these types of balls and how to deal with the way they react to being struck.
Wet balls – Balls that are subject to extended periods of rain can get slippery and cause effects just like that of wet grounds. Balls that have actually become waterlogged are another matter. Waterlogged balls are very dangerous to heading and the instep drive. Players should be taught to recognize waterlogged balls and to report them. Waterlogged balls must be immediately replaced. If there is only one, waterlogged ball available for play, the game should be abandoned.
All players must be taught all of the markings, and the reasons for the markings, contained in Law 1, “The Field of Play,” of the Laws of the Game. This is not just in order to play the game properly, but also because players may encounter situations where the field is not properly marked.
Lack of lines – A total lack of lines on a field may result in postponement of the match. Many local rules for youth and recreational play expect that games will be played anyway. Coaches must have enough cones in their possession to mark at least the four corners and the intersection of a “halfway line” with both touchlines. Cones may also be placed at the intersections of the penalty areas and the goal areas along both goal lines. In addition, coaches must have enough saucers to mark at least the two interior corners of both penalty areas. Additional saucers may be used to mark the interior corners of both goal areas and to further delineate the penalty areas and the touchlines. Players need to be taught to accept these conditions, demonstrate proper sportsmanship, and use the “honor system” during play.
Missing lines – Many fields may have some, but not all lines in place. Missing lines may be addressed as above or coaches may actually wish to carry field marking paint, markers, and string. Perimeter lines are first, followed by lines for the penalty areas, and then the halfway line.
Multiple lines – Most artificial turf fields, and some natural grass fields, are marked with sets of different-colored lines so that the fields can be used for a number of sports. For example, this may include markings for soccer, American football, and lacrosse. When first introduced to this situation, players must be taught to recognize which color represents the lines for the soccer field and to ignore the other markings.
Non-parallel – and wavy lines – In lower-level youth or recreational matches, coaches may encounter fields that have non-parallel or wavy lines. Local rules usually call for the game to be played. As such, both coaches (and the referee) must reach a mutual decision to either a.) correct the offending lines as best they can with new lines, or by using cones and saucers; or, b.) to play with the lines as marked. Either way, the players must be properly informed and told to respond appropriately.
Soccer Coaching Tips:
– Take advantage of field and weather conditions as they appear during practices in order to instruct players on how balls will react on wet surfaces or in high winds. This is especially true for goalkeepers.
– Consider creating possible field conditions in practice. Fill a hole with water and work at digging a ball out. Fill a depression with sand for the goalkeeper. Soak a ball for wet ball drills.
– Never miss an opportunity to discuss having proper clothing. (“You can always take something off, but you can’t put on something you don’t have.” – John Harves.) Specifically explain, and demonstrate, the matching color requirements contained in Law 4, “The Players’ Equipment,” of the Laws of the Game.
– Establish a pre-game routine that includes sufficient time to perform a field inspection.
– Keep in mind that having a place for players to use a rest-room, and a way to get there, is also a field condition.
– Know your “Local Rules” and how to find “Field Status” and “Weather Line” information.
– Work with your Captain(s) to discuss which goal to defend first, based on field conditions, if you win the coin toss. For example, defend the goal with the disadvantage first, such as the downhill side or wind into your face. Accordingly, you have the advantage in the second half.
– Players still sweat in winter weather. Proper hydration is still important.
– The risk of injury goes up in wet weather, as does that of illness. Players must stretch more often and must get wet clothes off as soon as possible. Remember that heat loss is accelerated in cold and damp weather. Again, the availability of proper clothing is critical. It is imperative that players use their warm-ups and rain gear correctly.
– Most of the safety concerns addressed above are equally important considerations for PRACTICES.
This article was published nationally by United Soccer Coaches in the “Soccer Journal,” May/June 2021 (Vol. 66 No. 3, p. 34).
© Copyright, John C. Harves