As a youth soccer coach, I’m responsible for running practices weekly with my young players. I coach both in the fall and spring, but we often run into a few days when the temperature is warmer than I’d like. Here is how I handle outdoor practice for my pee wee soccer players on a hot day.
Dress for the Weather
Make sure the parents dress their kids appropriately for the temperature. Hot, heavy clothing only makes high outdoor temperatures worse when you’re running around the soccer field. Remind the parents to apply sunscreen before practice. A hat can also help keep the kids cool.
Water, Water, Water
I can’t emphasize enough how crucial it is for your pee wee soccer players to drink enough water during a hot practice. I remind my parents to bring water bottles to every practice and game. When the weather is very hot, I bring a large jug of ice water and some plastic cups to practice. If any child forgets water, I have a backup. It’s also great for refilling water bottles if anyone runs out.
Take frequent breaks in the heat. I have my soccer players stop for a drink break after every drill when it’s hot. My drills usually only last 5 to 10 minutes so they get lots of water. Never deny your players a water break, even in the middle of a drill. Let them know if they need a drink they should go get one.
The beginning of my last fall season was extremely hot. For the first several practices and games, I encouraged my players to bring a cold, wet washcloth in a plastic baggie. I brought a cooler with ice to the practices and games. We stored the washcloths in the cooler. When the kids felt hot, they grabbed their washcloths and wiped down their faces.
In hot temperatures, you might need to dial back your practice. Going hardcore may cause the players to overheat. Choose lower intensity drills. Take more breaks than usual — in the shade if possible. You may even need to cut practice short. If possible, schedule early morning or late evening practices when the heat isn’t as intense.
Watch for Signs
I always tell my parents they know their kids better than I do. If they notice their child is acting strangely in the heat, I want them to tell me right away. I also watch for signs of heat problems. If anything seems off about a player, get her to a cool place with plenty of liquid immediately. Possible signs of a problem include:
- headache, nausea or vomiting
- clammy skin
- increased sweating and eventually no sweating if heatstroke occurs
- increased breathing rate or heart rate
Don’t let players go from a minor heat problem to a severe heat stroke. As the coach, it is ultimately your responsibility to conduct safe practices for the youth soccer players.