The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team. This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.
Today’s Tip of the Day is about cooling off during training and games in the heat. In general, playing soccer in temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius can cause heat illnesses (ranging from mild discomfort and dehydration, to more serious problems like heat exhaustion and heat stroke) in players. The higher the temperature, the more likely it is for heat illnesses to occur. In most instances, if players are well hydrated, they can avoid any serious health consequences during training sessions, because the training time and frequency of water breaks can be closely controlled by the coaching staff. During games, however, players may participate for 45-50 minutes without a significant rest period, so the risks of heat illness are much higher during games played in the heat.
Cooling players off at half time (to reduce core body temperature and prevent heat illness) is a critical component for recovery and optimal performance during games in the heat. One simple strategy I like to use is to have a cooler of ice cubes handy just before the half time break. When players are walking off the field, hand them 2 ice cubes – one for each hand. Other than the head, the hands have the body’s largest number of temperature receptors (parts of the skin and circulatory system that are most sensitive to heat and cold). Holding ice cubes in the hands for just a few minutes can significantly reduce the body’s core temperature. The slow melting of the ice also helps to calm players down as they sit and rest during the half time break. I have found that most players actually prefer having ice in their hands, rather than the more conventional method of having ice on their head or neck, as ice in the hands is much less intrusive and can be more comfortable. By the end of the half time break, the ice should be completely melted, and players should be ready to start their re-warm-up before the second half.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.