Soccer is not a graceful dance. There’s bound to be someone who will hit another player with a wayward cleat or swift kick. Although shin guards are sometimes unnecessary when doing fitness work or technical training, they should be worn during practice and games. As a coach, I discourage diving in and tackling the ball in many of my team’s conditioned games as well as some other activities.
Instead, I encourage my team to use proper defensive technique and to anticipate the pass. However, when getting into scrimmage situations, they are instructed to put shin guards on especially when I put them through some activity where all restrictions are removed.
This includes working on winning the ball or on 1-on-1 defense. Some of my players wear them all the time, but others don’t like having them on. However, should the conditions I mention above be occurring, I do not tolerate those who don’t like wearing shin pads. I also reprimand those who just put a piece of cardboard in their socks to make them look like shin guards.
I like teaching technique to my players during barefoot games, and those are the times that none of them wear shin pads. For stretching, warm-ups, and cooldowns, fitness training and technical skills training, I don’t require them to wear shin pads as well.
Shin guards are a great training tool so players know quickly that they should not hold on to the ball for an extended period or when the ball is 49-51. Back in the day when shin guards were optional, I earned the scars to prove to them what playing without shin guards can do.
When I dared play a pick-up game without shin pads, even though I was very careful, I still managed to get clipped several times by a clumsy co-player. This could have been averted if I had been smart enough to put shin guards on.
Players need to acknowledge that soccer is a contact sport. Soccer law prohibits unfair contact between players. That said, even ethical challenges can expose the player to substantial contact. Besides, even if serious foul play and harsh tackles are considered infringements, it doesn’t mean they do not happen on a regular basis.
Shin guards shield the vulnerable shin from exposure to kicks, tackles and other strikes. There’s not much insulation by tissue and muscle on our shin bones but their location and short distance from the primary action focus in soccer, which is the feet, make the use of the shins a priority.
That area needs sufficient protection to enable soccer players to engage in the game. In the same manner, as wearing a seatbelt, you need to have shin guards on whether you want to or not. It is not an optional thing or something based on preference.
Soccer laws are definite about player safety. Shin pads are compulsory equipment and are the only ones with further stipulations.
The FIFA law on shin guards states that they have to be completely covered by the stockings in addition to being able to deliver a reasonable level of protection and being made of appropriate material for their purpose.
Thus, metal-plated shin guards are not allowed. Neither are cardboard strips used to replace plastic, rubber or other accepted material. Despite the fact that shin pads do not guarantee total protection from injury, they still serve as an insurance policy that injury to the shin bone is reduced in the event of contact.
Soccer players should not be allowed to enter the field during a game without shin guards if they are to be shielded from abrasions, cuts and even a fractured shin bone. Shin guards ensure you can keep playing without fear, it’s that simple.