Cover material, size, and panel design are some of the things you'll need to know before you buy your ball.
How To Buy A Soccer Ball
You can't play soccer without a soccer ball. But buying the right ball is not that simple. You have to choose the right size for your age and the right material for your needs.
Choosing the right size ball
The first step in purchasing a soccer ball is determining the proper size for your age group. Many soccer leagues have different size requirements, so be sure to check with your coach to find out which is the proper size. Soccer balls come in three different sizes which range from size 3 to size 5.
Size 3 balls are the smallest balls and are generally used for children under the age of 8
These balls are generally 23-24 inches in circumference and weigh between 11-12 ounces
Size 4 balls are used for players between the ages of 8-12
Size 4 balls weigh between 12-13 ounces and have a circumference of 25-26 inches
This is the international standard match ball for all ages 13 and older, including all adult play
The size 5 ball weighs between 14-16 ounces with a circumference of 27-28 inches
Your choice for the cover of the soccer ball depends on how much you want to spend and your level of skill.
The best quality soccer balls are all made of synthetic materials
Synthetic balls offer superior feel and softness, but are generally less durable and less water-resistant than their polyurethane counterparts
They are also more expensive
PU soccer balls offer the benefits of synthetics (for feel) and plastics (for durability)
These balls are made of a durable synthetic material that offers a feel much like leather
These balls are very durable - only slightly less than PVC, scuff-resistant, and water-resistant
They often have a glossy coating for additional protection
PVC balls are molded out of a plastic-like PVC material and are generally the least expensive balls
These are very durable, scuff-resistant and water-resistant but offer less feel and softness than polyurethane balls
They often have a glossy coating for additional protection
The number of panels -- the different segments that make up the outside of the ball -- varies for each design
A 32-panel ball is the most common and is the type used in most professional matches
Other traditional designs are 18 and 26-panel constructions, used in various professional leagues, including Major League Soccer
Fewer panels generally means the ball can be curved more when kicked because of less stability to the cover
Panels can be either stitched or glued:
The highest quality balls are stitched with a polyester or similar thread
High-end balls are hand-stitched, while most mid-priced balls are machine-stitched
Lower-end, practice balls generally have the panels glued together onto the lining
These offer a harder feel and are generally less expensive than stitched balls
Linings are inserted between the cover/panels and the bladder to provide shape, feel, control and structure
Higher end balls usually have four layers of polyester and cotton lining for superior shape retention and durability
Mid-level balls generally are comprised of two or three layers of cotton and two layers of polyester
Lower-priced balls generally are constructed of two layers of polyester
The bladder is the inside part of the ball that is filled with air. Most balls use butyl valves for air retention, with higher end balls using a silicone-treated valve for superior performance. Don't forget to buy a small pump and some needles to keep your ball inflated. There are two basic types of bladders:
These traditional bladders are soft and offer a good feel
Latex bladders are generally used on higher-quality balls
They do not hold air as well and generally require more frequent filling
These bladders retain air better than latex bladders
Most mid-priced soccer balls utilize a butyl bladder that combines 70-80% butyl with rubber
Choosing The Right Goalie Gloves
You rely on your gloves for a secure ball grip and hand protection. Make sure you buy what's right for you.
How to Buy Goalkeeper Gloves
It is important for goalkeepers at all but the youngest levels to wear gloves. Gloves not only give you a better grip on the ball, but they offer protection and cushioning for the fingers and palms.
The palm is the most important part of any goalkeeper glove because it is where most of the protection and tackiness is needed
The grip in the palm area depends on the materials used to make the glove
Most gloves are comprised of a smooth latex, which provides the best grip
Dimpled and textured latex gloves are also available. They offer more durability but their grip is not as great as pure latex gloves.
Some manufacturers also utilize different treatments to increase the tackiness of the glove
Typically the better the latex, the better the gloves will perform
Ironically, the better the glove, the quicker it will wear out, so many keepers use two pairs of gloves--one for games and one for practice
The best latex gloves will begin to flake relatively quickly, but they are still usable until almost of the material has worn out
The textured or dimpled palms provide more durability, are less expensive and better suited for practice
There are many different types of closures on keeper gloves
The style you purchase depends mostly on personal taste
Determining your glove size
Most goalkeepers prefer to wear gloves that are a little larger than they actually need, giving them a larger surface area to stop the ball without sacrificing control
Glove sizes correspond roughly to you shoe size, and come in whole sizes only
If you are between sizes, always buy the larger size
Measuring your hand
Use a tape measure to measure all the way around the widest part of your palm, excluding your thumb
If you don't have a tape measure, use a string and measure that against a ruler
Measure both hands and add 1 inch to the largest measurement
For example, if your longest measurement is 6 inches, your glove size is 7
Some manufacturers also measure by finger length
For this, measure from the base of your hand right above the wrist to the tip of your longest finger
This is your glove size
Choosing The Right Soccer Goal
Make sure you buy a goal that's right for your playing terrain, ability, and usage.
How To Buy Soccer Goals
To play a regulation game of soccer, you need a soccer goal. There are many different sizes and constructions of goals. The type you purchase depends on the age of the players, intended use and space availability. Remember, it is important to always anchor any goal you use to prevent it from falling on the players or passers-by.
Types of Soccer Goals
These types of goals are lightweight and durable and are best for practice or backyard use
They can be moved around a field easily, but should be anchored whenever they are used
Hard plastic goals come in all different sizes, mostly smaller versions for practice use
Many offer a tight netting system that can also serve as a bounce-back practice tool.
All game goals and permanent goals are made of metal, usually aluminum
They are very heavy. Full size goals weigh up to 175 pounds and are not meant to be constantly moved around a field.
Aluminum goals are weather resistant and do not move when struck with a ball
Since these goals are heavy they need to be anchored to prevent them from tipping over during a game
Most recreational facility goal posts have a flat surface and are square, hollow aluminum. Professional goals are circular rather than rounded.
Regulation soccer goals come in three basic shapes: without depth, with depth, and box.
The net on this goals hangs down on a circular metal frame at approximately a 45-degree angle from the crossbar
It is secured either to a ground-bar attached to the goal or by stakes to the ground
These goals are lighter and more portable
The net on a with depth goal extends on a frame off the top crossbar about 2 feet parallel to the ground and then angles down at a 45 degree angle
These provide more room inside of the goal and help keep players from getting tangled in the net
These goals generally have rounded bars that frame the back of the goal to shape the net and to add stability
Box goals are essentially rectangular shaped, with the net looped over a box-type frame at right angles off of the goal posts
These are usually used for professional and other high-level facilities and are very heavy and relatively permanent
The size goal you purchase depends on the age of the players using the field. If you are buying goals for a youth program, it is recommended you purchase one full size set and two smaller size goals (one for ages 4-7 and one for ages 8-11). Any more than that can cause scheduling and administrative problems.
The standard size regulation goal is 8-feet high by 24-feet (8 yards) wide
A standard goal should be used for all regulation soccer fields used by players 12 years and older
The minimum field width for this size goal is 50 yards; minimum length is 90 yards
U9 to U11
On fields used by 8 to 11 year old players, goals should be 6 � to 7 feet high by 18 � to 21 feet wide
The minimum field width for this size goal is 50 yards, and the minimum length is 70 yards
For 6 to 7 year old players, goals should be 6 � feet high by 12 to 18 feet wide
The field size for this age group is a minimum width of 30 yards and a minimum length of 50 to 60 yards
For the youngest players, a goal should be 4 to 4 � feet high by 6 to 9 feet wide
Field size for beginner players should be 15 to 30 yards wide and 30 to 50 yards long
It is recommended that you purchase goals that come equipped with net fastener systems, such as clips or bars
For existing goals, you can purchase clips separately and install them yourself. This will make putting up and taking off nets much easier
You can also purchase hook-and-loop, Velcro-type strips to wrap around the poles to secure the net. These need to be replaced frequently.
Many goal systems come with anchors or stakes to secure them to the ground
It is highly recommended to have some sort of anchor system in place on all soccer goals
Nets are made of a synthetic wrapped material and are sized to fit the goal
Refer to sizing charts to match the appropriate net with an existing goal, or the goal you are purchasing
Choosing The Right Shinguards
From size to materials, here's help selecting shinguards for maximum comfort and protection.
How To Buy Soccer Shinguards
Every player participating in an organized soccer game is required to wear shinguards. Referees will not allow you to play without them. They offer excellent protection from serious leg injuries. There are many different styles from which to choose based on your position, age, and style of play.
Choosing the Right Shinguard
Shinguards are made to either deflect or absorb the impact of a kick
At the same time they should be comfortable and not interfere with your game
Shinguards are made from a variety of materials: polyurethane, plastic, and EVA foam.
Polyurethane is slightly heavier and less moldable but offers extreme protection
Plastic is generally a less-expensive shinguard
EVA foam or lycra backing is commonly found on the backside of all guards for comfort
Young soccer players should choose a shinguard which offers superior protection and is lighter weight.
Defensemen should choose a heavier, more protective shinguard
Midfielders need a combination of protection and lighter weight
Forwards need a lighter weight shinguard and should also look for one with superior ankle protection
Some shinguards can be molded and custom designed to fit your leg
Many shinguards include padded ankle protectors which attach to the bottom of the guard
These protect the ankles and Achilles tendon against direct kicks, but are soft and flexible enough to not interfere with movement
Ankle protectors are strongly recommended for players ages 12 and under
Most shinguards come with hook-and-loop, Velcro-type straps that wrap around the back of the leg for adjustable closure
Others have no closures and are designed to simply be worn inside the sock
Determining the Right Size Shinguard
It is important that your shinguards fit you properly, ensuring sufficient protection and comfort
Shinguards should cover most of the area from your ankle to your knee
Measure your shin from just below where the knee bends to about 1 inch above your shoe top
This is the proper length of your shinguard
Some manufacturers label their shinguard sizes according to age
Senior (or large) shinguards are generally designed for players taller than 5'4"
Junior (or medium) guards are designed for players shorter than 5'4"
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