Defend or Attack? 7v7 Soccer Strategy

7v7 Soccer Strategy

Your Guide

Alex Waite Alex Waite

  •  7v7 Soccer Strategy Is When a Team and Its Players Choose a Tactic and Formation for a Match. 
  • The Most Common 7v7 Soccer Tactics Are; Attack, Defense or Counter-Attack. 
  • Basic Team Strategy Can Improve Performance and Tactics Support the Strengths and Weaknesses of Individual Players.

A 7v7 soccer strategy is when a team chooses a formation and tactical approach for this format.

For 7v7 soccer, teams have various options when selecting strategy and formation. These include an attacking approach, a defensive setup or counter-attacking. 

7v7 soccer is a small-sided format of the sport, with seven players on each team.

Often, this includes a goalkeeper, then teams are free to choose their out-field formation with the REMAINING SIX PLAYERS.

Ultimately, there are different challenges to picking a 7v7 soccer strategy compared to 11-a-side.

According to the Football Association, 7-a-side soccer matches are more fast-paced, players receive MORE TOUCHES and they must make multiple decisions per match.

As a result, players are challenged many times throughout a match, which makes picking a strategy important. 

Even some basic team strategies can make a difference. In the late 2000s and early 2010s.

I coached and captained a local 7-a-side team and we had great success, winning multiple trophies and leagues by using different formations and strategies. 

Our success was built on simple tactics that we could adapt depending on the opposition and their strengths and weaknesses.

Also, we kept things simple in terms of setup and approach.

This was just in case, as often happens in amateur football, we had late dropouts and we could easily pass on instructions to the incoming stranger to fill the vacant position. 

In this article, we highlight some of the most common tactics approaches to 7v7 soccer matches.

We also outline some of the pros and cons of these strategies and we share some real-life situations on when to use different tactics. 

What Is the Best 7v7 Soccer Strategy?

Generally, the best 7v7 soccer strategy is the one that suits your player’s strengths and covers their weaknesses.

It also depends on the opposition and trying to combat their strengths. 

However, choosing the right tactical approach also depends on context.

As a result, coaches and players should have an open mind about being flexible to get the outcome they need for a particular match.

For example, an in-depth analysis by Tifo Football, in partnership with the Athletic, explained how Sean Dyce’s Burnley adapted their tactical approach during the 2019/20 Premier League season.

This tactical flexibility is also used in high-stakes games. When I played in a weekly, 7v7 soccer league at university…

..Our team was top of the table and we needed one point against the second-placed team to win the entire competition. 

Usually, we played possession soccer, controlling the ball and then moving it quickly forward to create scoring chances when the opposition showed gaps in the defense.

However, we knew the other team liked to play in a similar way in our head-to-head for the league title.

But we were also aware they had players who were less confident in possession that we could pressurize and then counter-attack. 

So, we set up to defend first, then attacked QUICKLY in numbers when we had possession.

Every player understood the task, we were defensively solid and won the match 2-0 by playing more counter-attacking football.

While the tactical suggestions below are good starting points, depending on the players you have available in your team, remember to TRY AND BE FLEXIBLE. 

Often, when I observe other managers, the best of the best react to problems in-game and provide clear, simple instructions to players without panic.

This could be as simple as changing two players’ positions to combat an opposition threat.

Or, it could be instructing your whole team to change its strategy to defend or attack. 

Defensive Strategy

Overall, the main goal of being defensive is to try and limit opposition chances.

Teams do this by playing close together and forcing the opposition out into wide positions on the pitch.

As a result, this protects the vulnerable, central areas inside and around the penalty area.

Usually, in 7v7 soccer matches, three defenders are preferred in a 3-2-1 formation.

Often, one of the three defenders will join in with attacks when in possession and then retreat to their defending position when the other team is in possession.

However, the middle defender in the three is more likely to hold a position to intercept or clear any quick opposition attacks. 

Some teams may even choose to play FOUR DEFENDERS. But, be aware that attacking opportunities may be LIIMTED.

In addition, the one striker in this formation may provide an outlet in attack.

Frequently, in a defensive setup, players will win possession and get the ball to the striker as quickly as possible for them to hold up and bring other players into the game.

However, when out of possession, the striker may drop deeper behind the ball.

Attacking Approach

With an attacking approach, teams often control possession and they try to create a lot of scoring chances against the opposition.

Generally, attacking teams have more players further up the pitch in attack than they do in defense.

Sometimes, teams may even commit every player to an attacking position to apply SERIOUS PRESSURE to the other team.

In 7-a-side soccer, attacking formations may include 2-3-1 or 1-3-2.

Having more players in attacking positions ultimately keeps the other team camped in their own half. 

However, attacking approaches are often vulnerable to counter-attacks and, if the other team is clinical when finishing, it can backfire very quickly.

In my regular weekly small-sided friendly matches, I often see players try to join into an attack only for a wayward shot or pass to give the opposition an easy goal.


In any form of soccer, counter-attacking is a defense-first strategy that aims to draw in the opposition before attacking with speed to expose openings.

Similar to a defensive approach, teams will set up to play with less possession and limit any clear scoring opportunities for the opposition.

Then, when in possession, the counter-attacking side will get the ball forward quickly and directly to snatch a goal.

Some of the most common counter-attacking formations in 7v7 soccer are 2-2-2. 3-1-2 or even 3-2-1, like a defending setup.

One of the main issues with counter-attacking is conceding early goals.

For instance, if a team lets in two goals in the first five minutes, they then have to scrap their counter-attacking approach and chase the game.

Also, it relies on the entire team defending and making chances hard for the opposition, which isn’t always easy. 

How to Choose a 7v7 soccer Strategy?

Selecting the right strategy depends on the players in your team.

For instance, if you have good technical players who can pass, shoot, and have good creativity and vision, then an attacking approach is a good choice.

However, if you have defensively solid players who are more physical, then defending or counter-attacking may be best.

One of my biggest struggles as a youth coach is trying to settle on the perfect tactic that suits the side. 

In a previous role, I had a blend of good, technical players and physically strong players.

However, influenced by the possession-based philosophies of Barcelona, I wanted the team to play tiki-taka football, controlling possession and picking moments to pass forward with speed.

Some players were ready to play in this way, but so many weren’t.

What I eventually learned was I set up the team on how I wanted to play, not what would give them the best chance of success. 

This is the ultimate consideration for any 7v7 soccer strategy.

Ask yourself, how can I get the most out of this group of players?

How can we compete in every game? 

How Long Are High School Soccer Games

How Long are High School Soccer Games

Your Guide

Alex Waite Alex Waite

  • High School Soccer Games Are 80 Minutes in Total.
  • Matches at Under-15 to Under-16 Level (Ages 14-16) Are Made up of Two 40-Minute Halves.  
  • High School Matches Are Shorter to Help With Player Development and Stamina in Preparation for 90-Minute Soccer Games.

High school soccer games consist of two 40-minute halves, which make up an 80-minute match.

This rule comes from the United States Youth Soccer Association’s guidance in the ‘US Youth Soccer Policy on Players and Playing Rules.

Knowing THE LENGTH of a soccer game is important for players, coaches, and fans.

However, the players are at somewhat of a disadvantage as they are not completely aware of the game time on the field.

In my playing days, I would often pester the referee at regular intervals.

As a former captain of some teams, I felt it was my responsibility to keep track of the time and game situation and relay this to my teammates.

But, I also felt this was completely necessary as, in the thick of the PLAYING ACTION, you often have little idea of how long is left in a soccer match. 

Although, younger players I have coached since care less about the game time.

Mostly, youth soccer players just want to get on the pitch and play the game.

In this sense, it is strange that high school soccer matches are shorter.

It seems an ample opportunity for young soccer players to enjoy the game for the full 90 minutes and to develop their skills. 

But, there are reasons why high school soccer matches are 80 minutes and not 90, like a senior 11-a-side game.

In this article, we explore the length of high school soccer matches and explain some of the reasoning about why games are shorter at the youth level.

How Long is a High School Soccer Games?

As the US Youth Soccer rules state, games for players between under-15 and under-16 levels should be 80-minutes long. 

Although, Part Three of the rules also has information about overtime, which should last for two 15-minute halves, totaling 30 minutes.

This is more in line with a full senior match, where extra time is 30 MUNUTES TOO.

However, overtime is rare in youth soccer as it only applies to cup competitions where a knockout match ends in a draw. 

Also, the rules blend some elements of the IFAB ‘Laws of the Game’, specifically if a match goes to penalties.

In such cases, the “FIFA “Kicks from the Penalty Mark” rules apply to determine the winner.”

The rules in Part Three also have some discretions too.

For instance, US Youth Soccer or individual State Soccer Associations can make exemptions for the length of matches.

This could be made in a pre-match agreement between coaches and the referee.

When I played at the youth level, one of my matches was cut short because the players wanted to finish in time to watch the FA Cup final.

Such cases are very rare, but clubs, referees, and leagues do have the power to determine the length of youth soccer matches. 

Despite the grey area where, technically, leagues can set their time limits for matches.

But coaches I have worked with within the UK, who spent time coaching in the US, have never reported matches going beyond the length of the US Youth Soccer rules. 

In discussions on match length, colleagues have often mentioned the pointlessness of straying from the official guidance as it does not help player development.

For example, making 14-year-olds play an additional ten minutes of a competitive match is unlikely to help develop any new skills. 

When Do High Scool Players Progress to 90-Minute Matches?

Ultimately, high school soccer matches last for 80-minutes for two seasons, during under-15 and under-16 levels. 

Once a player is aged 16, or they reach the under-17 level, then they move up to the full 90-minute matches, made up of two 45-minute halves.

This rule remains for the rest of a player’s career.

The only exception is when players take part in different soccer formats, like 5-a-side or drop-down soccer, where the rules are LESS RIGID.

Why are High School Soccer Games Shorter?

A lot of young soccer players I have coached between the ages of 14 and 16 seem ready for 90-minute matches on the surface.

But, when they eventually start playing 90-minute games, it becomes clear that there are developmental reasons for shorter games at the high school level. 

For example, I have seen some players struggle to pace themselves and give everything in the first 60-70 minutes, only to blow out in the final third of a game.

In rare cases, I have seen injuries from over-exertion and tired legs, ultimately affecting players’ development.

As a result, high school soccer games are shorter as part of PLAYER DEVELOPMENT.

This eventually leads to match readiness when soccer players reach the 90-minute THRESHOLD.

Players need time to build up stamina in soccer and gradually increasing the competitive, on-field playing time is a good way to support player stamina.

What Is a Glider Soccer Ball?

Your Guide

Alex Waite Alex Waite

  • The Glider Is a Soccer Ball Produced by Adidas.
  • It Has a Reputation for Being an Affordable, Good-Quality Option for Everyday Soccer Players.
  • Originally, the Glider Was Used as the Official Ball of the 2013 Confederations Cup Before Being Widely Distributed in 2017.

The Glider is an affordable soccer ball made by Adidas.

It is well-known for its durability and low price point, making it ideal for both TRAINING and MATCH SITUATIONS.

Often, I have either trained with Adidas Gliders or used them as a match ball.

Ultimately, from my experience, they are a great all-around ball to use those players of all abilities can use.  

In addition, its affordability is one of the big appeals for a soccer coach like me, who loses equipment all the time.

In any given training session, wayward shooting drills, loose passes, and even powerful headers can send the ball FLYING OVER THE FENCE.

To combat the inevitable missing soccer ball, I have purchased the Adidas Glider in bulk before.

Very few similar purchases have matched for quality and affordability.

Since the Adidas Glider was first introduced in 2013, it has RISEN HUGELY in popularity.

So much so that it was ranked in Bleacher Report’s top 20 Coolest Soccer Balls of the Last 20 Years

In this article, we outline what makes the Adidas Glider so appealing to masses of soccer fans and players.

In addition, we provide a guide on how to get the best performance and longevity from your Glider. 

Features of an Adidas Glider Soccer Ball

Ultimately, the Adidas Glider’s features are what make it such a universally good soccer ball for many players and coaches. 

It is designed to be used by casual and competitive soccer players around the world, whilst also being affordable compared to many other branded balls.

In past soccer matches I have played in, we sometimes found ourselves with poor quality soccer balls that would either burst after use or they would GRADUALLY DEFLATE.

So many times, I have seen coaches use sub-standard equipment that is cheap and of poor quality. 

Although this is sometimes a necessity due to budget or a quick fix, there is no real substitute for a good quality soccer ball, and the Glider ticks a lot of the boxes here for several reasons. 

Below are some of the key features that make the Glider soccer ball unique and user-friendly.

adidas Messi Glider Soccer Ball Football Blue/Active Red/Silver Metallic, 3

I) Affordability

When compared with other branded soccer balls, the Glider is incredibly cheap.

Today, soccer players pay way over the odds for branded equipment that sometimes isn’t even the BEST QUALITY. 

A lot of modern soccer is about the brand and looking the part.

Now, I coach kids who won’t even kick a ball that isn’t branded, or who come to training and matches with the latest ball on the market. 

But often, there is little difference between cheaper balls like the Glider and the most expensive soccer ball.

Unless you can strike a ball with the same technique as Kevin De Bruyne, you are unlikely to notice the difference between high-end and low-end soccer balls. 

II) Durability

Overall, durability is what all soccer players, coaches, and fans want from their soccer balls.

If a ball is durable and affordable, it is head and shoulders ABOVE THE REST.

Some important aspects of the Adidas Glider set it apart from the rest in the same price bracket.

The list of features below make this ball more durable and longer-lasting:

  • Hard but Responsive 100% Tpu Cover
  • Machine Stitched for Compactness
  • Rubber Bladder Inner for Bounce and Responsiveness

III) Ease of Use

Lastly, the usability of the Glider makes it popular for many players. It is a ball that is easy to control and it doesn’t waver too much for passes and shots. 

Also, the fact it comes in three different sizes (3,4, and 5) makes it ideal for players of different ages learning the game.

Smaller soccer balls help to develop technique and touch, while large balls are used in more match-specific situations. 

The Football Association’s official guidance for youth football suggests the following size soccer ball for specific age groups.

  • Size 3: Age 6-9
  • Size 4: Age 10-13
  • Size 5: Age 14-18

How to Use a Glider Soccer Ball

Even though most soccer balls are made for outdoor use in ALL WEATHER conditions, there are ways to get the longest use from an Adidas Glider. 

In the past, I have been guilty of overlooking care of my equipment, especially when coaching.

Usually, distractions such as giving a player some pointers, talking with a parent, or taking a phone call after training led me to forget proper care for my soccer items. 

While I was less precious about things like cones, fold-down goals, and bibs, having damaged soccer balls was the worst.

From not inflating or deflating balls properly to leaving the balls in poor weather conditions, there were ways I could take better care of my soccer equipment.

Don’t make the same mistakes I did and follow some of the guidance below on properly caring for an Adidas Glider:

1. Deflate After Practice: If you aren’t going to be training for a week, take some of the air out of the balls after your session. This decreases the pressure on the inflatable bladder and the outer coating.

2. Store in Dry Conditions: One I have certainly ignored and paid the price for! Make sure you keep your soccer balls out of wet, cold, or too hot weather. Such conditions can cause irreversible damage to soccer balls.

3. Inflate Properly Before Practice: Make sure the balls are inflated enough so you force your thumb into the outer layer with a medium amount of pressure.

4. Don’t Use on Concrete Too Much: The odds game on a rough surface may cause some damage to the outside of your soccer ball. But playing consistently on hard surfaces will eventually burst the ball. 

adidas Finale Glider Soccer Ball Silver Metallic/Bold Blue/Football Blue/Light Blue Bottom: Active Red S19, 3

History of the Adidas Glider 

Although the Adidas Glider has earned a reputation in soccer for being an affordable, high-quality ball, its evolution began at the very top. 

During the 1990s and 2000s, Adidas had a phase of producing dazzling soccer balls with different graphics and designs.

I remember seeing the brightly patterned Adidas Icon ball used in the 1999 Women’s World Cup.

Then, came the Adidas Power Orange for the 2008 European Championships, a purely orange ball used well in snowy conditions.

Lastly was the Adidas Wawa ABA.

This green, yellow, red, and black ball was the official one for the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations. 

Adidas continued to produce boldly patterned soccer balls into the 2010s.

For the 2013 Confederations Cup, the manufacturers continued this theme and the Adidas Glider was born.

As Brazil hosted this competition, Adidas created a yellow, blue, and green ball to represent the country’s flag colors. 

However, other than the replica ball sold while the tournament took place, Adidas did not mass-produce the Glider until 2017.

This is when Adidas dropped the price and created a soccer ball available to be used by all soccer players, NO MATTER what standard.

True to its original daring colors, the first Glider was lime green and intentionally visible so players could see it spinning in real-time.

Since then, Adidas has released VARIOUS STYLES of Glider balls to suit the everyday player.

Today, there are five types of Glider balls, including the Glider 2, the Tango Glider, and the Messi Glider soccer ball.

What Is the Minimum Number of Players That Can Play On One Soccer Team?

Individual Competition, Age Group, or Regional Governing Body Regulations. 

Your Guide

Alex Waite Alex Waite

  • Seven Is the Minimum Number of Players Allowed on a Soccer Team.
  • If a Team Fields Less Than Seven Players at Any Time During a Match, It Will Be Abandoned by the Referee.
  • Minimum Player Numbers Vary Depending on Regional Rules and Individual Competition Rules (e.g. 5-A-Side Soccer and Casual Matches). 

There must be a minimum of SEVEN PLAYERS PER TEAM on a football pitch for a soccer match to go ahead. 

According to the 2021-22 International Football Association Board (IFAB) Laws of the Game, “a match may not start or continue if either team has fewer than seven players.”

In addition, the rules state that there must be a maximum of 11 players per team, including one goalkeeper FOR EACH SIDE.

However, this rule only applies to men’s senior football.

Rules may vary depending on:

  • Individual Competition
  • Age Group, or
  • Regional Governing Body Regulations

It is extremely rare for a team of seven to play against a team of 11, especially in professional soccer.

However, at the amateur level, this is MORE COMMON than you think.

When I have coached soccer teams at youth and senior levels, some players have not shown up on matchdays (especially in the cold, wet winter months).

LUCKILY, I have always managed to field a team, even when I once had to borrow one of the opposition’s players, who turned out to be our Man of the Match that day!

In this article, we look at why seven is the magic number for a minimum number of soccer players on the field.

We also highlight some further rules related to soccer team numbers. 

Why Is the Minimum Number of Players on a Soccer Team Seven?

There is no official reason or explanation about why there should be a minimum of seven players on a soccer team.

However, it is likely that any less than seven players would be TOO MUCH of a disadvantage for one team.

As a result, the referee can stop playing in the interest of sportsmanship.

In professional soccer, it is unlikely that teams will ever have less than 11 players to field.

Many professional teams have huge numbers of backup and youth players.

As a result, they could technically field an 11-person team for any fixture. 

Alternatively, things are different at the youth and amateur levels.

Over the years, I have seen and heard stories from clubs where teams end up playing 6v9 or 8v10 when there aren’t enough players.

Often, in such instances, the team’s coaches consult with the referee and, if the two sides are happy to go ahead, the match is played. 

Although these examples would counter the IFAB laws, they are often decided in the interest of sportsmanship and fun, rather than a professional judgment. 

What Happens if There Are Less Than Seven Players on a Soccer Team?

In the unfortunate event that a team has less than seven players, the referee will abandon the match. 

Usually, an abandoned match is replayed at a later date, unless the regional, national or international governing bodies make alternative arrangements.

Some examples of alternative outcomes include awarding the result to one team or voiding the fixture. 

In November 2021, during a Portuguese Primeira Liga match between Benfica and Belenenses, the referee abandoned the fixture after halftime.

Due to a COVID-19 outbreak in their squad, Belenenses started the match with just nine players, before three more withdrew due to injury.

When Belenenses went down to six players, the referee enforced the IFAB laws and called off the match shortly after halftime. 

Another extreme example comes from English soccer when Sheffield United vs West Brom turned into the ‘Battle of Bramall Lane’ in 2002. 

During this Championship clash, referee Eddie Wolstenholme was the first official to abandon an English professional match because one team had fewer than seven players.

Throughout the match, tensions were high and both teams committed huge numbers of aggressive fouls.

Eventually, Sheffield United had three players sent off. In addition, two of their players came off with injuries.

With eight minutes left to play, Wolstenholme abandoned the match. 

In this instance, because Sheffield United was seen as the main leader of aggression in the match, West Brom was awarded a 3-0 win and three points. 

What Is the Minimum Number of Players for Other Forms of Soccer Matches?

Different forms of soccer have different rules.

For instance, small-sided games, such as five-a-side and seven-a-side, differ from 11-a-side.

As a result, minimum numbers of players for small-sided games have no unified rules to follow.

Instead, regional soccer associations and bodies SET THEIR OWN laws of the game.

Growing up in London, playing small-sided soccer was a hobby for me between competitive training and matches.

After school and work, casual small-sided games in parks, on the street, or on concrete pitches were part of the soccer culture. 

However, we didn’t have rules on team numbers.

Sometimes we would have teams of 5v6, 2v3, 4v5, etc. as the numbers didn’t really matter.

Whoever showed up next would join the team WITH THE LEAST players to level the playing field. 

Furthermore, casual soccer matches are played internationally.

Whether on the beaches of Brazil or the concrete pitches in Europe, conventional codes and game laws DO NOT APPLY.

As a result, any number of players can technically play a drop-down game of soccer.

This can range from 2v2 or 20v20 and it is more about inclusivity rather than abiding by the exact laws of the game. 

You’re Running Down the Soccer Field When You Develop a Side Stitch; What Should You Do

You’re Running Down the Soccer Field When You Develop a Side Stitch; What Should You Do

Your Guide

Alex Waite Alex Waite

  • Slow Down, Take Deep Breaths, Apply Pressure and Keep Upright if You Develop a Side Stitch.
  • Trying to Prevent a Stitch by Taking Precautions Before a Match. This Is Easier Than Managing a Stitch.
  • There Are Two Theories About Why Stitches Occur When Athletes Exercise. 

If you develop a stitch whilst playing soccer, take DEEP BREATHS, apply pressure to the area and KEEP UPRIGHT.

These are some of the most important tips. But, the main thing to do is to KEEP CALM and try to get your BREATHING PATTERN NORMAL.

Recognizing what a stitch is is important in helping to eliminate it.

I have seen soccer players think they are in severe danger of having heart palpitations when in fact, they just have a stitch.

However, if you are in bad discomfort, go down and ask to be substituted off the pitch. 

According to advanced practice nurse Deborah Weatherspoon, Ph.D., a stitch is “pain felt on either side of your abdomen.

It’s more commonly reported on THE RIGHT SIDE.

Symptoms may range from CRAMPING or a DULL ACHE to a pulling sensation or a sharp, stabbing pain.”

Ultimately, the severity of stitches varies.

As a teenage soccer player, I could eat half a meal an hour before a game, get a stitch and run it off.

However, as I continued playing at a higher pace and standard of soccer, stitches were harder to shake off.

This required some adaptations and awareness of how to continue playing whilst trying to subside a pain in my side.

More often than not, players can get rid of stitches whilst remaining on the pitch. I

n this article, we outline some of the top tips to help get rid of a stitch when running down the pitch.

We also provide advice on how to prevent a stitch from occurring. 

What to Do When You Get a Stitch on the Soccer Pitch?

Firstly, it is important NOT TO PANIC.

Some players OVERREACT and fear the worst when they have any injury.

However, this is COUNTER PRODUCTIVE and can cause unnecessary concern and panic.

When people become anxious, their breathing pace increases and their heart rate rises.

This will not help to get rid of any injury quicker, let alone a stitch. 

Once you recognize it’s a stitch you are experiencing, follow our advice below on how to help subside the discomfort.

1) Take Deep Breaths

Deep, controlled breathing pushes down on the diaphragm (the affected area during a side stitch).

By regulating breathing and TAKING LONGER INHALES, players can relieve some of the pressure.

In soccer matches, this can be difficult as the fast pace of the game leads to faster heart rates and faster breathing.

In the past, I have seen players sit down and take their time once they have a stitch rather than try to keep pushing through and running a stitch off.

This is a good strategy as it allows the player to fully recover rather than make the issue worse. 

2) Apply Pressure to the Area Affected

PRESSING DOWN GENTLY on the SIDE where the stitch is happening can also help to manually relieve the pressure.

Again, this is not always a practical mid-match.

However, do not be afraid to go down with an injury rather than try to push through the pain. 

3) Stretch

Gently moving the affected side during a stitch can ease the pressure. For instance, if the pain is around the left side, try arching your left hand over your head towards your right side. You should feel a stretch in your left abdomen and around the ribs. Continue this for a few minutes and the pain can ease. 

4) Keep Upright and Keep Moving Gently

If the stitch is uncomfortable, come off the pitch, keep standing and talk a gentle stroll away from the pitch.

Whilst doing this, concentrate on DEEP BREATHS and apply some pressure to the area. 

Coming off the pitch and taking time to calmly regain composure will help to speed up the recovery rather than forcing through the pain.

In my experience, as is the case with any injury, playing through the pain almost always has long-term effects. 

After heavy stitches whilst playing, I have seen players continually holding their side for hours after a match.

Others have no appetite and some can’t even handle drinking water because of the pressure on their side.

Sometimes, thinking about your health is more important than the pride of staying on the pitch. 

How to Prevent a Stitch When Playing Soccer?

Stitches develop for numerous reasons.

These include eating too soon before:

  • Exercise
  • Eating Too Quickly
  • Being Dehydrated
  • Over-Exerting Too Quickly and
  • Poor Posture

Ultimately, preventing a stitch from developing is easier, more manageable, and less painful than dealing with the pain during a match.

Here are some tips to try and prevent a soccer stitch. 

i) When and What Are You Eating?

Regularly, I see players eat RIDICULOUS MEALS before matches.

I have seen players DEVOUR a sandwich, chips, a sausage roll, and even a FULL English BREAKFAST.

Sometimes, this would be an hour or less before a match!

Unsurprisingly, they would head out onto the pitch only to be back in the changing room 20 minutes later with a stitch.

Heavy food anytime leading up to a match is a BIG NO.

Avoid food that is hard to digest and swap this for MORE HEALTHY, LIGHT OPTIONS.

Also, consider a routine diet around your soccer activity. Christopher R. Mohr, Ph.D. has several helpful tips on what and when to eat for athletes of all abilities in his sports nutrition article. 

Usually, when I have an early morning match, I would get up early, have a light breakfast, then keep hydrated until the match.

I also ate fruit, such as oranges and bananas just before or during a game to keep my GLUCOSE LEVELS HIGH.

This worked for me, but each player will have their routines and habits to help improve performance and prevent those pesky stitches. 

ii) Keep Hydrated

Being hydrated during a soccer match is essential to performance…

..But, drinking the right amount of water is also key as too much liquid can lead to bloating and a side stitch. 

In the hot summer months during pre-season training, I and my teammates were always encouraged to DRINK WATER.

Scheduled breaks would help to keep topping up water levels.

However, when playing soccer in 30-degree heat, you often drink more than your body can handle.

This would lead to uncomfortable feelings in the stomach and eventually create cramps in the abdomen and side. 

Therefore, think about topping up with regular sips rather than drinking liters and liters of water to ward off those unwanted stitches.

iii) Don’t Skip the Warm-up

In soccer, players need to combine static and mobile warm-ups before matches and practice.

Static warm-ups are based on stretching the muscles.

Mobile warm-ups help to get oxygen moving through the body through gentle jogging, for example. 

These activities prepare your body for more vigorous activities during high-intensity matches and training.

But, they can also prevent side stitches.

In particular, stretching the muscles around your diaphragm can help to prevent a stitch. 

iv) Pace Yourself

Getting caught up in the heat of a match is a BIG MENTAL CHALLENGE for soccer players at all levels.

I remember playing in important cup matches, League Title Deciders, Relegation Dogfights, and Simple Local Rivalries.

In these instances, going on to the pitch with a level head is challenging, but it is essential.

So many times, especially when coaching youth teams, I have seen players become too relaxed with their warm-up then try to start the match at 100% performance.

Simply put, this is impossible for any soccer player, and taking time to get into the flow of a match is important.

It also helps to prevent overexertion and injury, including stitches.

Your body will not be ready to go from near static to full mobility in an instant. 

What Is a Stitch and How Is It Caused?

According to health writer Jane Chertoff, in an article peer-reviewed by Dr. Deborah Weatherspoon there are two theories about how side stitches occur.

However, the exact cause is still unknown. 

  1. Blood in Diaphragm: Too much blood can move to the diaphragm causing pain and strain in the side. 
  2. Lining of Abdominal and Pelvic Cavity: Irritation and friction of this area can happen during intense physical activity. As a result, this can cause more specific, local pains, like in the shoulder. 

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