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The Crucial Role of Hydration in Youth Soccer

Hello Hydration!

Ensuring proper hydration is essential for everyone, but it's especially critical for young athletes in high-intensity sports like soccer. In September of 2022, we touched on fueling young athletes with Lindsay Hazard, a Sports Nutrition Expert, and she said, "the biggest mistake I see probably is not hydrating enough or really only paying attention to it the day before a game." This common oversight can significantly affect performance and overall health. In this blog post, we'll explore the importance of hydration in youth soccer and offer practical tips for keeping young players adequately hydrated. 

The Impact of Hydration on Performance 

Hydration plays a vital role in maintaining optimal physical and mental performance. When athletes are dehydrated, their bodies must work much harder to pump blood to their muscles, which can lead to decreased stamina, slower reaction times, and impaired decision-making. As Hazard explains, "hydration just has a huge impact on performance, but research, the studies that I have read show that two-thirds or three-quarters of athletes aren't showing up hydrated. And that's a huge disadvantage because your body has to work a lot harder to work, to get that blood out to your muscles if it is dehydrated." 

For young soccer players, staying hydrated can make the difference between a stellar performance and struggling to keep up. Proper hydration helps regulate body temperature, lubricate joints, and transport nutrients, all of which are essential for peak athletic performance. 

Understanding Fluid Needs 

Fluid needs can vary significantly from one individual to another, influenced by factors such as age, body size, and climate. Hazard provides a helpful guideline: "The place I have most of my athletes start at is taking half their body weight in ounces of fluid per day. And then adding on an additional 20 ounces per hour of training." For example, a 100-pound athlete should start with 50 ounces of fluid daily, plus an additional 40 ounces for a two-hour practice, totaling 90 ounces. 

This personalized approach ensures that young athletes get the hydration they need to support their activity levels and environmental conditions. In hot climates, like Dallas, Texas, where Hazard is based, it's even more crucial to stay vigilant about fluid intake. "It is still almost a hundred degrees today. So it is like we are still sweating a lot, losing a lot of water when we're out training," she notes. High temperatures increase sweat rates, leading to greater fluid loss and a higher risk of dehydration. 

Practical Tips for Staying Hydrated 

  1. Start Early: Encourage young athletes to begin hydrating well before they step onto the field. Hydration should be a daily habit, not just something to think about the day before a game or practice. 
  1. Monitor Fluid Intake: Use Hazard's guideline to estimate daily fluid needs and adjust based on activity levels and climate. For most youth soccer players, carrying a water bottle and taking regular sips throughout the day can help meet these needs. 
  1. Hydrate During Activity: Make sure players drink fluids during practices and games. Coaches and parents can set up regular water breaks to ensure athletes stay hydrated. 
  1. Choose the Right Fluids: Water is usually sufficient for most young athletes. However, during prolonged or intense activities, you may need to try something else to help replace electrolytes lost through sweat. We recommend doing your own research on what you feel works best for your child and speaking to your family physician for added guidance. 
  1. Watch for Signs of Dehydration: Educate players and parents about the symptoms of dehydration, such as dry mouth, dark urine, fatigue, and dizziness. Early recognition can prevent more severe issues. 

Conclusion 

Hydration is a simple yet powerful factor in enhancing athletic performance and maintaining overall health. As Lindsay Hazard emphasizes, "doing something as simple as drinking enough fluid every day can make a huge difference." By understanding individual fluid needs and incorporating consistent hydration habits, young soccer players can perform at their best and enjoy the game to its fullest. Visit the Soccer Parenting YouTube Channel to view a segment from our interview with Lindsay. 

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