All soccer coaches have their stories of extreme playing conditions, usually related to rain, snow, or extreme heat or cold. Well my U11 Girls played in what arguably could be the worst conditions they’ll face as youth soccer players this past weekend. It was surreal.
The Lunachicks headed to a local tournament for some pre-season action and played well on Saturday in warm temperatures under sunny skies. The forecast for Sunday was talking about it being a windy day, but I admit I didn’t look to see HOW windy. So we headed back out on Sunday for our final two games. It was breezy in the morning, but not really bad. But as we got closer to game time, the winds picked up. Now wind on its own is not a huge deal. Sure the ball moves in bizarre ways, but there’s nothing ‘harsh’ about it.
Except for one thing. The fields we were playing on had a significant layer of sand on them for the turf to spread easier. But the turf was not plush or thick – it was sparse. Some touchlines were painted primarily on sand, not grass. Now our field was located towards the open center of the complex, meaning there was little to obstruct the wind. Worse, it blew across dirt parking lots, then the sandy field next to ours THEN across our own field. So the wind picked up a LOT of sand and grit. But the morning match, while less than ideal, was tolerable and the girls played tough. But the blowing sand was definitely an issue.
After lunch, we walked to the field for our last match and the wind had picked up. A lot. A local weather station recorded sustained winds of up to 39MPH, but for most of the match the wind was blowing between 15 and 25 MPH with stronger gusts. Constantly. Imagine playing soccer in winds that are loaded with sand and grit, trying to play a ball that’s weaving and curving all over the place while you’re blinking your eyes constantly to keep the grit out. For both games we had to sub players out to get their eye’s washed out with water to get the grit out. Gusts would come through that players had to stagger in to stay on their feet. One of our goals scored was due entirely to the wind. Our player touched the ball to settle a pass and it took off like a shot to the goal due to a gust of wind and the keeper misjudged it. During a kickoff, the girls couldn’t keep the ball from taking off the second they set it down – I though someone was going to have to hold it while it was kicked! A couple of throw-ins down the touchline would go in and then curve out before hitting the ground. We had a couple spare soccer goals sitting behind the team touchline. One flipped over – thankfully backwards – we flipped the other over ourselves to lay it down. We saw two other spare soccer goals that had flipped onto cars in a parking lot. Thankfully all the in use goals had sandbag anchors.
It’s hard to describe how crazy a day it was. We were proud of our girls who played with full effort the entire match in such extreme conditions. While it may not have been as sudden and extreme as this dust devil, the constant wind and flying sand were something to experience. I was glad I had my sunglasses because as coaches we were facing directly into the wind to watch the match. When I got home I couldn’t tell if my face was red due to sunburn or being sand blasted!
What type of unexpected extreme weather conditions have you ever seen during a sporting event? My other favorite was a hail storm with hail just smaller than pea size that covered the ground. It made for a fun time (we were just playing pickup – not an actual game)