Fall football is wonderful. The crisp weather, the fans bundled up, the hot chocolate, the changing leaves on the trees surrounding the field (if your game is at a park)—something about it all feels incredibly seasonal, even for youth football players. October arrives and temperatures start dropping a little … just as the enthusiasm for the game is heating up even more.
However, those dropping temperatures can easily drop too much depending on your region of the country. The average high in Milwaukee on Nov. 1, for example, is 53 degrees, and the average low is 38. Pittsburgh registers an average high of 57 and a low of 40; Denver at 59 and 31; Seattle at 56 and 43 (with probably a good chance of rain …). As fall progresses, night-time games can get chilly, but even daytime games can be cold depending on conditions. And October snow is not unusual in some northern climates.
Staying warm in cold-weather football is a challenge for players and parents alike. Coaches can send reminders to teams to bundle up, but ultimately, there’s a little trial-and-error involved for families experiencing their first chilly games of the season—or ever. Here are some strategies to help players and parents stay warm in cold-weather football:
Keeping Players Warm
Most youth football leagues don’t play beyond Thanksgiving (or even that far past Halloween), so sub-freezing temperatures usually aren’t an issue. However, temps in the 40s or 30s, along with some wind, can quell the spirit of even the most enthusiastic players. Consider the following steps to help them stay warm:
- Layers: Dressing in layers seems like a no-brainer but is actually a challenge with tackle football because players already are wearing pads. Besides the concern of so many layers slowing players down, removing a layer if your child is too warm isn’t exactly easy in the middle of a game (obviously, this is less of a problem with flag football). Choose lightweight materials, perhaps a long-sleeved shirt and base-layer pants to provide warmth without limiting mobility.
- Gloves: Your kids might already own and wear football gloves, but if not, this accessory can keep their hands warm during chilly games.
- Chemical hand-warmers: Hand-warmers (and feet-warmers), normally used for skiing and other winter activities, can help in cold-weather football, particularly if your kids aren’t in the game at a given moment.
- Keep moving: This is a better tip for practice—keep players moving throughout the workout. Adrenaline will keep them warm, and focused, when they might otherwise wish they were inside.
- Bundle up off the field: When players aren’t in the game but on the sidelines instead, they should be encouraged to bundle up until the re-enter the game. This may include hats (if they take their helmets off), mittens they can temporarily wear over their football gloves, and parkas and winter coats.
- Stay hydrated: Dehydration can accelerate heat loss in brisk weather, and kids might feel the cold means they don’t have to be hydrated, which, of course, can affect performance. Therefore, encourage players to be drinking fluids during chilly games and practices (and don’t put too much ice in their water bottles …).
Keeping Parents Warm
Often during frosty games, parents feel sorry for the kids, but spectators are the ones suffering more. Coaches at least can move around; parents might be sitting on metal bleachers or folding chairs shivering and wishing the game would go faster. Here are some tips for parents to stay warm in cold-weather football:
- Overdress: We’ve all been there as parents—we think we’ve properly dressed for the weather, then realize it’s much colder than we thought. Therefore, bundle up to a level you think will be comfortable, then add one more easily removable layer, whether it’s another jacket, a winter hat, or a blanket.
- Seat cushions: On a cold day, the sight of metal bleachers can send chills up your spine (and the rest of your body …) before you even sit down. Bring seat cushions or at least a blanket in order to avoid body heat escaping via, well, your posterior.
- Canopies: If your game is at a park without bleachers—meaning spectators are bringing their own camping chairs to sit on or are simply standing—consider organizing with other parents to set up a collapsible picnic canopy. Bring hot chocolate for the kids and coffee for the grownups, thus turning your tent into a sort of home base. Besides giving grownups and players a chance to temporarily get out of the wind, you are providing a chance to socialize—nothing says community more than you and other parents huddling under the canopy, cheering on your team.
What steps do you take to help your kids stay warm in cold-weather football?