what to wear?

…and by that I mean, on your hands. Buying keeper gloves for a youth player is often a mystifying experience for the parents. This is not surprising, as companies have endeavored to one-up each other with increasing arrays of features that may or may not matter to the player. Even getting the right size can be confusing. Read on for some suggestions that might take the mystery out of the process…

First, why do we wear gloves? Protection and grip, in that order.  Unless the ball is very wet, most trained keepers can catch the ball just fine without gloves. However, as you get older and the ball comes faster, gloves take the sting out of the shot, and also help keep your hand in good catching position. This will increase the confidence of the keeper. Confidence accounts for a great deal – don’t underestimate it.

Second, the fit. Keeper gloves ARE NOT to be worn tight. To you, they may look comically big on the youth keeper. The soccer.com sizing instructions put it well: measure around the part of your palm just below the knuckles, excluding your thumb. Round up to the next whole inch, then add 1 to the measurement to determine your glove size. For example: 7.5″ -> 8″ + 1 = 9.

Thus, 9 would be the glove size. Make sure to measure both hands, and purchase the bigger size if they are different. Goalkeeping gloves should be worn big, generally 1/2″ to 1″ over the end of your fingertips.

Finally, the features: finger spines, wrap around thumbs, wrist guards, “made for dry” or “made for wet” conditions, ventilated…the list goes on and on. Don’t get confused – there are some old adages that apply very well when purchasing gloves for youth players:

“You get what you pay for” applies perfectly, first of all. Very inexpensive gloves (<$15) will not be very durable, will be very flimsy, and will not do much more than get the player used to wearing gloves. But how hard to 6 or 7 year olds really shoot? Inexpensive gloves are perfectly fine for the very young player who may not play keeper beyond that age group. Just make sure they are fitted correctly, and make sure they are really keeper gloves – not just any synthetic hand covering will do.

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Well, this is a stretch, but what I mean is that if you buy super fancy high end gloves for your child and they don’t wear them because they don’t feel good, that is not very helpful Fit and feel matter. Remember, these are supposed to increase the confidence of the player. The conundrum is that many soccer-specific or general sporting goods stores don’t carry many different gloves in smaller sizes, so you may be stuck with what is on the rack at first. Once the player gets a feel for what kinds of gloves he/she likes, you can start ordering online from places like soccer.com or world soccer shop. There are also some very good user reviews on these sites that might help you avoid gloves with poor durability or odd fit.

A word on finger spines…I personally like them. Some kids hate the restriction of them, but they frankly do decrease injury and increase confidence as the shots get harder. For youth players, I would stay away from removable spines since they won’t get worn out before the gloves get outgrown. They are worth considering for players over the age of 10, where the game starts getting fast.

Any questions? Use the comments section and I will try to get you answers.

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