The Ins and Outs of Soccer

Played indoors, soccer remains a great game, but equipment needs can differ.
 
Did you know that more people play soccer than any other sport in the world? An estimated 265 million, in fact, and that’s more than those who play basketball, baseball, football, tennis and golf!
 
Soccer, which is known as football in most countries, has traditionally been an outdoor sport. However, in recent decades a growing trend has been taking the internationally beloved game indoors. Today, indoor leagues are growing in number, and players of all ages are kicking the soccer ball both in the great outdoors and in arenas. The indoor sport is particularly popular in the northern United States and Canada, where the outdoor season is brief and facilities built for hockey and basketball are readily available for indoor soccer games.
 
The outdoor and indoor games are similar in that players use their feet (and sometimes their heads) to drive a ball into a goal and score points, but there are some differences that are game changers.
 
Indoor fields, for example, are half the size of their 400-foot outdoor counterparts. In other words, they’re the same size as the ice rinks on which hockey is played. That’s no coincidence since many indoor soccer venues are converted hockey arenas. Most are covered with artificial turf, although the game is sometimes played on hardwood basketball courts. Some rules are different as well. There are no kick-ins, throw-ins or out-of-bounds in indoor soccer. Because the playing area of a hockey arena is walled in, the ball remains in play if it bounces off the walls. If the ball clears the wall, the team that touched it last is allowed a free kick at the spot where the ball left the arena. The sliding tackle, a useful tactic on outdoors grass, is banned by most indoor leagues, since it can result in injury on hard indoor surfaces. The offside rule, common to outdoor soccer, is not enforced by most indoor leagues. Many indoor leagues use a penalty box where the player must sit out a yellow-card infraction. Again, hockey arenas, which include a penalty box, make this rule convenient.
 
Of course, it’s not just field size and rules that distinguish the indoor game from the outdoor variety. Whether you can move like Messi or bend it like Beckham is dependent in part on the equipment with which you play the game – equipment that is specific to indoor and outdoor play.
 
From the Ground Up
 
Since soccer is played primarily with the feet, selecting a shoe is among the most important gear choices a soccer player has to make, so let’s talk about shoes first. In general, there are two types: outdoor cleats and indoor turf shoes.
 
Outdoor cleats are made of rubber, plastic or metal and are designed to dig into grassy fields for better grip. And, according to Peter Hong, assistant merchandise manager for adidas, there are a few things you should keep in mind when choosing a pair.
 
Fit is the most important thing to consider. A shoe that’s too big or small will not only hurt your feet but it can also affect your touch and feel when handling the ball. Technology is key to both how the shoe contributes to speed afoot and ball handling capability, and all of the adidas lines are designed with different properties in mind. For example, the F50 line – Hong’s favorite – was designed in collaboration with Lionel Messi, one of the game’s fastest players. So it’s not surprising that the shoe is engineered to optimize speed. That capability is in part the result of a new stud configuration meant to enable maximum acceleration on firm ground. The shoe features a new lightweight HybridTouch synthetic leather upper so its weight won’t drag you down. DribbleTex technology provides a textured grip to enable high-speed dribbling and excellent ball control under all conditions.
 
The brilliantly colored Nitrocharge shoe was inspired by Brazil, site of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and that country’s carnival tradition. With EnergyPulse design, the Nitrocharge optimizes energy transfer and provides a claw-like grip on firm ground. Its lightweight design and glove-like feel optimize ball handling.
 
Turf shoes designed for indoor soccer have small rubber cleats or a flat, rubber bottom to keep you from damaging the carpet while providing better traction on hard surfaces. Your Dunham’s sales consultant can help you choose a shoe that’s just right for your soccer league.
 
Shin guards and balls are also important parts of both indoor and outdoor games, and adidas makes them in various styles, sizes and colors. Some indoor players wear extra protective gear in that fast play on hardwood floors or firm turf is more likely to result in injury than is outdoor play on grass. Even the balls used indoors are different than those used outdoors and are designed specifically for the fast pace of arena play.
 
So, whether you’re looking for the latest technology in cleats, cool turf shoes in more colors than you can imagine, or shin guards to match your gear, a wealth of options are available at Dunham’s, where you’re sure to score something that’s perfect for you.
 
-Soccer Mom
 
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Kick It Up!

The worldwide popularity of soccer is undoubted. There’s scarcely a corner of the globe where the game is not played. More nations belong to the Federation International de Football Association (FIFA) than to the United Nations. There are over 301,000 clubs, 1.7 million registered teams and over 240 million registered youth and adult players around the world.
 
Over 15.5 million people in the United States participate in soccer. National youth organizations have over 3.8 million registered participates under the age of 19. More than six million females play. There are over 600 teams and 12,000 female players at the college level. More than 700,000 boys and girls play at the high school level.
 
A Natural Game
 
One reason for soccer’s popularity is that it’s a natural game to play. If you roll a ball to a toddler who has just learned to walk, their first instinct might be to pick it up, but they are just as likely to kick it instead. They’ll soon discover that a kicked ball will go farther and it’s also a fun thing to do.
 
Simple and Exciting
 
Many factors contribute to soccer’s popularity. The rules are very simple. Anyone can understand the basics in just a few minutes. It doesn’t require much to get a game together. A few players, a ball, something to use as a goal, and it’s game on. Soccer can also be played and enjoyed at a very early age. It’s fun for children and spectators alike because there is plenty of action and excitement on the field. In addition to scoring goals, it’s also exciting to see players deftly dribbling through defenders, completing pinpoint passes to teammates, and making exciting runs down the wings.
 
Getting Game Ready
 
Another reason for soccer’s popularity is that it doesn’t require pricy equipment. Once you’ve got a ball, some cleats and a pair of shin guards, you’ve got pretty much everything the pros have. “By making cost-savings equipment packages of high-quality balls, shin guards, cleats and socks available, brand manufacturers are now making soccer even more affordable for players of all ages,” says Adidas.
 
The Ball
 
Adidas offers a wide variety of machine and hand-stitched soccer balls. Choose the one that best meets your game and training requirements. A ball with high durability, all-weather construction is ideal for a 5-year-old just learning the game. A 12-year-old honing her ball handling and passing skills might prefer a ball with a softer touch. Serious players will opt for a ball FIFA-tested for circumference, weight, rebound and water absorption.
 
Another consideration is size. Adult-sized soccer balls are marked with a 5, smaller size 4s are more appropriate for players age 8 to 12, and players under 8 will probably fare best with a still smaller size 3 ball.
 
Shin Guards
 
Shin guards are essential for keeping young and older legs safe from all those other flailing limbs out there. The best combine lightweight construction, a hard protective front plate, and a soft synthetic lining. Guards without strapping usually include a compression sleeve. Some offer adjustable widths and built-in ankle protection. “To ensure a proper fit,” says Adidas.
 
The Cleats
 
Adidas, Nike, Under Armour and Puma offer a wide selection of cleats for children and adults. Quality-crafted kid’s cleats feature lightweight, supportive synthetic leather uppers and outsoles designed to provide a steady grip on firm, natural surfaces. Different adult cleats feature asymmetrical lacing systems for better ball contact, leather uppers for a more natural fit, and advanced cleat designs for more aggressive traction, surer turns and sudden stops. When fitting a shoe for a child or adult, remember to lace it, hit the back of the heel onto the ground and then place the foot firmly down. If there’s one finger width of room across the area of the big toe, it’s the right size. If not, go up to the next size.
 
Soccer is hot, booming and a whole lot of fun. Cost-saving equipment packages from brand manufacturers now make it even more affordable for players of all ages. So, what are you waiting for? Get in the game!
 
The Coach’s Corner
 
Barry Brodsky has coached club and high school soccer for 15 years. He’s only one of the few coaches to guide both senior boy’s and girl’s high school soccer teams to state championships. Coach Brodsky was also voted Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association (MHSSCA) Division One 2010 Boy’s Coach of the Year, as well as MHSSCA Division Two 2010 Girl’s Coach of the Year.
 
Q: What are the skills of the sport?
 
A: As a high school soccer coach I know players need to be extremely fit to play at a high level. Depending on the position, a player may cover over two miles during a high school game. Centers and mid-fielders work at a very high rate. Recovery time is precious. Foot skills and the ability to control the ball while dribbling, passing and receiving are also very important. Keepers need excellent vision, good eye-hand coordination, outstanding flexibility, and the ability to anticipate where a shot will go.
 
Q: What type of conditioning works best?
 
A: Interval training is the most effective. We combine 10 to 15 yard sprints with jogging for short distances. We try to simulate game conditions as much as possible, using rapid starts, stops and short rests between sets. Cross training with other sports is a plus. Hockey and basketball players make fine soccer players. Female soccer players who practice yoga and dance usually have superb strength and flexibility.
 
Q: What type of drills do you recommend?
 
A: We use a system called Coerver ball handling drills to teach players to change direction with ease while keeping their head up and the ball close to their feet. Passing and receiving with a partner, dribbling exercises and target practice all translate well on the field. There are plenty of drills one player can do to increase their confidence level with the ball. They can practice using the inside and outside of their foot, touching the ball only with their laces or the side of the shoe. They should practice rolling the ball back and forth, alternating touches only with inside, outside, laces, heel and top of the foot.
 
Q: Does size matter?
 
A: Winning the ball in the air is important, but good soccer players come in all shapes and sizes. The game offers ample opportunities to put yourself in a position where you don’t need great size to accomplish great things. Small players can and do excel. Most of the time it comes down to conditioning, confidence and heart.
 
-Soccer Mom
 
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