#50 – Keeping Warm on Cold Days

Being Cold is No Fun

It's amazing to me how many parents I see every year on the sidelines who are unprepared for the weather. I expect this from my teenaged kids, but when I see full grown adults shivering on the sidelines, I think I need to do an episode on this subject. There is no good reason for you to be cold on the sidelines of a soccer field. The weather will adjust the way you dress for it, but warmth is your right. Teeth chattering is probably not encouraged by the American Dental Association. And blue finger tips are not attractive. 

Weather is Relative

There is a big difference between running around in 50 degree temperatures vs sitting on a cloth chair in 50 degrees. Your activity level make a huge difference in how you feel at a game. If you're sitting still in 50 degree weather, be prepared to be cold. If you're running around in 50 degree weather, you're probably grateful to have things a little cooler. 

A wet 50 degree day is much colder that a dry 50 degree day thanks to the added evaporative effect of wet clothing against the skin. Windy days can penetrate layers. Hill tops or large flat surfaces like a soccer field with no wind break can amplify the wind effect. 

Take this stuff seriously. People can and have suffered hypothermia in 50 degree temperatures - especially when they're wet from sweat or other bad weather like rain or snow. 

Taking Care of Players

Players have special needs. Here are a few thoughts on players:

  • Benched players will be colder than players who are actively running.
  • Wet (sweaty) players will lose any heat they have quickly and can suffer shivering cold easily if not cared for on the bench
  • Goalkeepers will likely be colder than field players - especially if they are not seeing much action.
  • Injuries are more likely when players are not warmed up and their muscles, ligaments, and tendons are not activated before strenuous play
  • Wet balls slap and hurt!
  • Slippery wet fields make players prone to injury.
  • Players are wearing light weight wicking clothing in most cases - regardless of the weather
  • Dehydrated players don't have as much fluid in their bodies to circulate and keep them warm as hydrated players

Here are some things that make cold days a little more manageable for players: 

  • Proper warm ups are important. It's not good to take human bodies form cold and stiff to full on game-like activities levels too quickly. I suggest having players show up a little earlier on cold days. Get the soccer cleats on. Get some activation exercises like lunges, opening-the-gate, closing-the-gate, high kicks, etc. going. Next, move players into some activities that encourages touches on the ball: rondos, passing exercises, etc. Don't forget about your goalkeepers! Keepers need to be loose and limber, gloves warmed up, bodies warmed up, etc. 
  • Hydrate well the day before a game. This is true for every game, but it's even more important when players are going to be exposed to extremes in weather. Water helps the blood to circulate - which helps to keep the muscles well fueled and the body thermostat in good working order. 
  • Have a blanket for the bench. Benches can be pretty cold and they will suck the heat right out of players if they're allowed to sit on a cold bench for a prolonged period. 
  • Keep players who are getting ready to go in warmed up. Make them do jogs or high knees down to the corner flags and back. It's never a good idea to let people sit and get cold. Better to warm up through moving, than by huddling up under a blanket and getting stiff. Though a blanket is better than not having one. 
  • When players come off, have them sip some water. We need to keep replenishing the body with fluids to keep the kids hydrated and moving. 
  • Keep an eye on your goalkeepers during games. Any player that's not working hard will cool down quickly and start getting stiff. This is when injuries happen. Keep everyone loose and limber. Rotate a keeper off if they're just sitting in the elements for long periods without any action. 
  • Officials should be watching the temperature closely when they get down around 45 degrees or so. This is temperature at which bad things can start happening. My club relaxes the uniform at 45 degrees and lower. You can check out specifics of what we do at each temperature - both hot and cold - in episode #44 - Effective Weather Policy for Youth Soccer. 

Taking Care of Adults

We don't talk enough about keeping adults warm. Adults are sitting still - maybe on a thin cloth fabric chair. Maybe not dressed well. Maybe suffering horribly. That is NOT fun. We want parents to enjoy coming to games, not dreading the cold. 

  • The same rules about hydration apply to adults as they do to young players. Hydrated parents have better working thermostats. There is more blood volume that can circulate and keep the body warm. 
  • The real secret to staying warm is layers. Not just putting on lot's of layers in any random order, but knowing how to create a layering system that keeps moisture away from your skin, water off your body, and warm air surrounding you. 

I personally don't think any group understands layering as well as backpackers. Having backpacked 100 miles in New Mexico in temperatures that ranged from 30's to triple digits, I can tell you from personal experience that layering works. A nice long-sleeve wicking base layer next to your skin - followed by fluffy, air trapping mid layers, and a nice water/windproof outer layer makes the best possible combination. 

I've seen many sideline fans bring blankets. If you bring one, consider sitting on it, then wrapping yourself. There isn't much insulation below you on those fabric chairs.

Gloves, a hat, and something to wrap around your neck are extras that every fall sports fan should have ready. 

I'm also a fan of warm drinks. I tend to prefer a warm herbal tea and keep a thermos with me. If you have a good thermos like I do, you can heat the water up the night before, fill your thermos, and have the drink ready to go in the morning. A warm drink warms your core and helps keep the blood circulating around the rest of your body - to keep things like your fingers and toes toasty. 

If you're really feeling the energy to help others out on the field, bring an extra blanket and share. I usually have at least two, and I've brought extra knowing that there's always going to be someone show up not ready for the cold. Sharing a blanket helps cement sideline friendships and helps everyone the game more. 

What Are Your Ideas for Keeping Warm on the Sidelines? 

Maybe you've got a good idea I didn't cover in this episode. Please leave a comment below and tell the rest of us what you're doing to stay warm and dry during games. Have you used one of those sideline pods? I've seen them in magazines, and a few times on a soccer field, but I haven't tried one yet - or talked with someone who knows what they're like. 

Maybe you've got another technique. Let's share them with others so we can all stay warm. 

Resources

  • Hostetter, Kristin. “How to Layer for Cold Weather.” Backpacker, 27 Oct. 2010, www.backpacker.com/skills/layering-for-cold-weather-dress-to-the-nine-belows.

The Soccer Sidelines

Soccer Dad, Coach, and Club President who is devoted to developing kids and their families. With a diverse background in leadership in other settings, David is focused on empowering parents, players, and coaches to focus on the stuff that really matters in youth sports.

>