Understanding the Importance of Shin Guards in Youth Soccer

Proper shin guards - (Photo: Hkref.blogspot.com)

As a youth soccer coach, player safety should be taken as seriously as anything else that you are teaching your players.  A young child getting injured is the nightmare of any parent and can often leave a coach feeling responsible if they haven’t taken precautionary measures to preserve their health.  One rule that should never be broken by coaches is the simple rule that if a player arrives to a game or practice without out shin guards they should never be able to play.

This situation will probably happen at least once with someone on your youth soccer team, and you must be absolutely strict about this.  The player arrives five minutes late to practice because of some doctor’s appointment, or sibling’s activity, and in the rush to make it to practice on time accidentally left their shin guards at home.  He or she sees a problem with being held out because of this and gets angry.  The parent, already flustered by their hectic afternoon also gets angry and exchanges some heated words with you so you back down and let the kid play.

Everything goes well and you even forget about the lack of shin guards until the scrimmage session, when your best kicker thunderously misses a ball and instead connects with the shin guard-less player, right in the shin.  He breaks his leg and is rushed to the hospital, misses the next year, and is never the same soccer player again.

Now think about the importance of shin guards again.  This is basically the one piece of attire designed to protect soccer players and they must be worn at all times.  Yes, the shin guards can feel constricting and often aren’t needed, but when someone gets kicked without wearing shin guards, not only will it probably leave a nasty bruise, but it can also occasionally result in a broken leg.

As a coach, simply be adamant about the rule of shin guards.  Make sure every parent and player understands at the first practice of the season that shin guards are a requirement.  Therefore, when the inevitable occurrence arises, there aren’t any surprises in regards to you not letting a player participate in any given practice or game.

Also, be sure to place the withholding of the player in a proper context.  Let them know that a single youth soccer practice or game is really not that big of a deal, and if you are firm and hold your ground appropriately, the soccer player will surely be unlikely to repeat the mistake again.  Remember, player safety is the most important aspect of the game and should be respected at all times.

Soccer is a fun and rewarding experience for children as well as their parents.  There are countless fond memories that kids may hold for the rest of their lives involving their youth soccer playing days.  Make sure that you keep the sport as a positive experience for them and not one that resulted in wearing a cast for three months.  Don’t ever let a kid play without their shin guards!


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