There's nothing like a day in the sun with a little soccer in the sand, minus the sand you find in every crevasse of your body and clothes for the next week but otherwise just perfect. In case you call Mars home you've probably seen soccer being played in the sand with incredible goals, saves and bicycle kicks left, right and center. It is most commonly referred to as beach soccer and although people love to watch and play it not enough people really know the benefits for your body, game and overall state of mind.
Just like outdoor soccer it has two teams, two goals and one ball, the only difference here is it's played on sand, duh! So whether you're looking to get into the beautiful game on the beach at a serious level or kick a ball around with some friends next weekend there are some things you should know about the benefits, things to avoid and what you'll need for a perfect day of sun, fun and soccer in the sand! Oh before I forget you do know that you can use your regular old size 5 or 4 soccer ball but a beach soccer ball is the best tool for this job, in case you don't know what I'm talking about it's a ball that is a little lighter, more durable for the sun and the sand and makes for a bit better playing experience too. You can always ask the group of girls if they've seen your beach ball that you accidentally on purpose kicked there way and may or may not even exist or you can just go buy one, good luck.
1. Joint/Ligament Strength - When trying to balance and maneuver in the sand your joints and ligaments will be put in overdrive in comparison to on the grass or turf. It takes more tendon and ligament strength to push off and pivot in the sand and as a result you will strengthen all the pieces of your body and core that deal with lateral movements while on the beach.
2. Less Stress On the Body - After years and years of playing the game we all love your body will start to get some serious miles on it and the joints, muscles and tendons start to ache a little more frequently than years before. The beauty about soccer in the sand is the low impact it has on the knees, ankles and your body overall, this is why you see many pro outdoor player do their recovery from an injury on sand before they jump out onto the pitch. If you're the player that's always hurting after games some beach soccer may be just what the doctor ordered.
3. Increase Leg Strength - The muscles in your legs will never burn as much as they do after a good hard beach session. Soccer in the sand puts a high emphasis on leg strength such as the quads and the calves to juke and slalom around the soft sand surfaces. If you've ever done sprint workout in a pool you know what I'm talking about with regards to the resistance training you will feel in your legs, soccer in the sand is very similar.
4. Safer Landings - Most people don't realize how much jumping and awkward landing in soccer actually takes place. Whether you're jumping for a header and landing on one foot or keeper diving and falling on their sides the wear and tear of the outdoor game can be brutal and lead to some serious injuries if you're not careful. The beauty of playing soccer in the sand is that you avoid all of those rough uneven landings you might find on grass or turf leading to less injuries and safer collisions both in the air and on the ground. So if you're the type that's a little injury prone then you will love the change from that unforgiving outdoor pitch to the cushion like feel of the sandy beaches.
5. Increased Foot Strength - Considering you don't wear shoes (some wear protective socks) and are typically are in your bare feet when you're playing soccer in the sand this increases the amount of work your foot endures. The muscles and tendons in your feet that don't get as much work when in a cleat or a daily running shoe really get strengthened and developed when playing and training in the sand. This is a great way to reduce the risk of injury and increase the power you get from your feet throughout a match.
1. Going Too Hard In the Sand - Because sand is a safer surface to play on than turf or grass some players go in with the mentality that they can't get hurt so they flirt with that line of being over aggressive thinking the sand will save them. Be careful about diving into dangerous tackles because you think the landing will protect you.
2. Foreign Objects in the Sand - Do a sweep of the playing surface before you start playing soccer in the sand. Sometimes glass, rocks and other objects might be hidden under a layer of sand that could cause some real damage if you step onto it in the wrong way. Although playing in bare feet has its benefits to performing in beach soccer it also leaves you vulnerable to cuts and infections from foreign objects so be really careful and watch where you step at all times.
3. Long Hours In the Sun - Time seems to slip away when you're kick a ball around and the sun is beating down you for hours so be careful that it doesn't get the best of you. Hydrate and apply sunscreen often because the affects of the sun on you for a couple short hours can be dangerous if you haven't protected your body inside and out properly. Amateur beach soccer players will play soccer in the sand for hours without any care to what it is doing to their body so be sure to take all the precautions necessary.
1. Ball Control - Your ability to manipulate the ball and control it with all the different parts of your body will be constantly tested while playing beach soccer and will make you a better all around player. Beach soccer has you take down balls on your chest, head, thighs and anywhere else you can imagine so the more you play the better your touch, control and foot skills will get.
2. Shielding the Ball - With all the times the ball is stopped dead in the sand there is a high rate of protecting and shielding the ball throughout a game on sand. Playing soccer in the sand will teach you how to shield the ball in several different ways from different angles while trying to keep possession or turn a player and take a strike on goal. If you weren't great at shielding the ball before get ready for a crash course on how to do it.
3. Quick Release of Shot - When playing soccer in the sand you only have a split second to make a decision and releasing a shot in that small time frame is a skill you are going to need to get used to. The more and more you play you'll find the goals that you score or more about shooting it quickly when the keeper isn't set then lining up this perfect shot with lots of power on it. Soccer in the sand will improve your ability to release a shot the second you receive it, an invaluable skill for all attacking players.
4. Creativity of Pass - You'll quickly find that dribbling in beach soccer is so tough to come by and the ball is stopped dead quite frequently, from that position players have to find creative solutions to keep possession and the set up passes for their teammates. Playing soccer in the sand will help you develop creative solutions to pass the ball to teammates in seemingly impossible situations.
5. Anaerobic Conditioning - If you ever struggled with exerting your body with short sprints, jumping for headers or being knocked down and having to get up quickly then playing beach soccer will help with that type of conditioning. We call that anaerobic conditioning and it's the quick bursts of energy you use throughout a match and beach soccer is filled with it from start to finish. If this is a part of your game that could use a little work then I highly recommend you play as much soccer in the sand you can this year to elevate that physical gap in your game.
1. Beach Ball - Yes you can use a standard outdoor soccer ball either size 4 or 5 will do the trick but if you want a ball that's made specifically for what soccer in the sand will bring your way it may be worth looking into a beach soccer ball. They are priced like an outdoor ball but are created with a materials that deal with the sand, moisture and heat that comes with playing soccer on the beach.
2. Two Goals - No rocket science here, but I've found the portable fold up nets are best if you're looking to play with keepers. The metal nets are too tough to carry around and the small pug nets are good if you're looking to play without keepers but I'd try and get a net that is portable that you can use for indoor soccer and beach so you can use it for both. Yes it is okay to make a net out of shoes, bags or whatever else is laying around if you have no other options, old school I like it.
3. Lining of Pitch - You can dig the old heel into the sand and make lines that way or you can buy specific beach court lining that is easy to set up and take down. If you plan on playing soccer in the sand more than a couple of times in the summer I would invest in some lining to avoid arguments (there will always be arguments) and give your game that extra little touch of professionalism.
4. Sunscreen - Don't be a hero and get some sunscreen to protect your whole body from burning. You are going to be dehydrated as it is running around and sweating so be sure to drink lots of water and apply sunscreen regularly.
5. Appropriate Sand Surface - Not only should you do a walk through of the sand to make sure it's safe from any glass or rocks but also make sure the sand is on somewhat even ground and doesn't have any dangerous holes or hard spots that may cause some serious injury. A quick scan in the beginning can save hours of dealing with an injury later.
Lots!! Beach soccer has slowly grown into a global passion and why wouldn't it! I mean it has all the elements of soccer that we love combined with the beach, sun and all those great things that come with being outside like dunking your body in the water when you're done. There are beach soccer tournaments that are held all around the world and even the beach soccer FIFA World Cup. Beach soccer is played at the highest level by true pro's and if you haven't had a chance to watch it on TV or in person it can be one of the most exciting sports you've ever seen. If you want to join a soccer tournament check out the beach soccer series called Soccer in the Sand here.