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Size 4 Soccer Balls: The Winner Is…

11 May

Several weeks ago, I asked my readers for recommendations on Size 4 Soccer balls.  One of the points made by a reader was keeping cost down – because kids do lose balls!  There’s been an epidemic of balls picked up by other players at our club.

I settled on the Select “Club” ball for my two sons and ordered a pair of them.  They arrived earlier this week and the kids have both been using them since.

Several positives for this ball:

  • Fairly unique on our fields.  I haven’t seen any balls in this color combination at our training or practice sessions.  This makes a difference when it’s time to find your ball at the end of practice.
  • Really solid touch when it’s fully inflated.  It doesn’t have much padding under the cover, which I prefer in a ball.
  • Has a good weight to it.  It doesn’t bounce like a rubber playground ball.
  • $15.99 price point for this colorway.  That was cheaper than a lot of the balls I also considered.

We will see over time how well the ball holds up and keeps inflation.

Coincidentally, I found a Size 5 version of the ball locally in the all White colorway at a going-out-of-business sale at a local store and picked it up for myself!  It has the same attributes as the Size 4 balls.  We used it for part of my match on Sunday and it was positively received by the players.  It allowed for properly weighted passes, but wasn’t overtly lively on first touch.

Select seems to produce good balls at a good price point.  They are harder to find locally – they are not commonly carried by the Big Box stores – but specialty stores may carry them as well as Soccer.com.

What’s a Good Size 4 Ball?

31 Mar

One of the aspects I like about soccer is that is a very gear-limited game.

A ball and a space to play is all that is needed to play. As you advance, a pair of shoes becomes more important – but it’s still about the player and not the gear.

At our club and in our state association, U8 age group and below use a Size 3 ball. In U10 and U12, the Size 4 is used.

As Aidan will move to the Four with certainty for the fall season, and Evan will move to the Four if or when he starts our club’s Pre-Academy program, I’m in the market for two quality Size 4 balls.

In just a few years of play, we have had several balls pass through our house already. There’s a lot of variety of play in balls under $20. Some have slick covers that don’t have a good touch. some have a lot of neoprene or other padding under the top cover of the ball. Some have virtually none. Most noticeable when playing, some perform like a beach ball while some are feel more like a rock.

With both of the kids dedicating more time to playing, I want to stay on the right foot with a ball that plays as “true” as possible.

The options I’m considering:

Select Numero 10 ($24.99): I’ve seen a few Select balls around at our practices and pickup games I’ve attended. You can’t find them at the Big Box Sporting Goods Stores and you don’t see them on the professional pitch (except in Denmark and some parts of Latin America). But the balls I’ve used have a nice solid feel to them and the right weight.  Of course, they have a number of different balls all under the “Numero 10” banner – at different price points.  Are they materially different?

Select Royale ($39.99): This is Select’s first “Step up” ball from the Number 10.  Looks like it has a lot of the same characteristics of the Number 10.

Nike Premier Ball ($39.99): This is Nike’s upgrade ball versus the $16-20 ball you see in Sports Speciality retailers. I’ve seen the size 5 version of this class of ball with some high school teams.

Nike Club Team Ball ($29.99): One step down from the Premier.  Looks like it has normal panel shapes instead of the rounded ones on the Premier.

Adidas FIFA 2012 NFHS Club Ball: I don’t know anything about this ball, but it seems to be based on their

What are your favorite balls for practice and match use in size 4? What characteristics do you look for when buying a ball?

Product Review: Nike Rio II Soccer Jersey

30 Mar

I’ve worn moisture management fabric shirts while exercising for more than ten years.  Before that – it was the cotton tee shirt.  But once I discovered moisture management fabrics, I became a fan of Nike’s Dri-Fit and Russell’s DriPower clothing.

However, I’ve noticed prices have gone up as these items have become more popular – but the shirts haven’t been adding any additional features or becoming significantly better performers as far as I could tell.

Through several retailers, I became aware of Nike’s Rio II Soccer Jersey (and many other styles of shirt as well.)  Without a club badge and number, the Rio shirt looks like any other exercise apparel – available in four youth and five adult sizes and ten different colors.  But it’s added functional feature: it has a back made completely of mesh for airflow.  The white front insert panel is made of the same type of mesh.  The back is very effective at keeping you cool while exercising.

The fit on the shirt is great if you fall into the athletic cut.  I have a problem buying most athletic retail styles – they either are too short through the body or too large through the chest, shoulders, sleeves and torso (this applies to a lot of other clothing as well.)  In the case of the Rio, I can comfortably wear a size Small and it provides plenty of length but a fitted appearance.

There’s also a long sleeve version with the same construction.

I recommend the shirt if you are in the size range that retail styles don’t fit well, and if you are looking for added features in your sports apparel.

First Impressions: Adidas adiPure 11Pro

19 Mar

My first pair of new boots in fifteen months is the Adidas adiPure 11Pro (firm ground).

While the adiPure line is a veteran line up for Adias, the 11Pro is the newest update to the line and is a transition as far as the visual of the boot. While it maintains a “Traditional” or “Heritage” look like Nike’s Tiempo and past offerings in the adiPure line, it also takes on some of the technology of other recent releases.


Most notably to many boot-freaks and runners – an improvement in weight of the shoe by 1.6 ounces versus prior releases. The adiPure 11Pro weighs in at 8.2 ounces. My last pair of shoes, Nike’s Total 90 III (Leather) weighed in at 10.2 ounces. This is starting to approach the weight of my running shoes like the Brooks Pure Connect and the Brooks Green Silence (7.2 ounces for both shoes). Considering I found the transition to an 8 ounce running shoe (Nike’s Free Run+) to be revolutionary for me (in part due to weight) this shoe should be a big difference on the pitch.

The upper is still a full grain leather – in this case, Adidas has selected Taurus leather instead of the adiPure’s traditional Kangaroo leather. There’s been discussion among reviewers that this is a de-contenting of the shoe – but I’ve never worn Kangaroo so I don’t anticipate missing anything.

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One Year Review: Nike T90 Laser III

2 Feb

My Nike T90 Laser III cleats hold a distinction for me: they were the first pair of cleats that I purposefully picked out as an adult.

I had bought a pair of Adidas cleats one year earlier, but had done so largely on the basis of price.  At that time, I was starting in soccer and wanted a pair of cleats but didn’t want to spend a lot of money in case I didn’t stick in the sport.

So when I was ready to replace the Adidas shoes, I did some searching and settled on the Nike T90 Strike III in leather.

Performance Features

When Nike rolled out the T90 Laser III, one of the distinguishing characteristics of it was the shot pods and swerve fins on the instep of the shoe, along with the asymmetric lacing pattern.  I figured at the time, that any technology or placement that would allow a larger ball striking surface would be to my advantage as a still-novice player.

Fit

Most of my prior shoes to this point, with the exception of my then still-recent Nike Free Run+ were size 11.  I stayed with Size 11 in this purchase and was satisfied with the fit.  No pinch points on my normal width points.

Touch

My prior Adidas cleats were TPU uppers, so I felt like the touch in the leather T90’s was improved versus my prior shoe.  The contact surfaces seem to work well – providing some settling of the ball’s rotation when receiving a pass for example.

Style

I really liked the colorway I purchased – Black and Yellow with Silver accent.  It’s distinctive without being over the top.  I added Nike’s RED laces
to the package.

Durability

The shoes have last well through weekly play over the last year, along with some training and working in the yard.  The leather where the other meets the sole plate is losing its smooth texture now.

The cleats still have plenty of life left on them.

Traction

My boots are Firm Ground version – with the molded blastic “Blade” style cleats.  The layout of the blades is very similar to most other boots.  I haven’t had any traction problems with the shoes.

What’s Next

I’m going to keep playing in this boot for now – although the new Adidas Adipure 11Pro  holds a lot of appeal for me.  I think in the future I’m moving towards a lighter weight, more “touch” or “Control” oriented shoe.

Product Review: PUGG 6 Foot Portable Training Goals

11 Jan

One of the realities of coaching recreation soccer at our club is that you will never get equipment.  No cones, no pinnies, no balls, and no goals.  The goals used for matches are at a different field than where practice is, and beyond that – there’s about 1/4 the number of goals as would be needed for each team to have a pair to use at practice.

In practicality, having full size “game goals” wouldn’t benefit the type of practice I want to have anyway – since it would turn into kids wanting to be goalkeeper and at this point I consider goalkeeping to be among the lesser needed set of skills I could develop in the players.

Last Christmas, Evan received one pop up goal that was similar to the PUGG – but it offered limited folding ability and eventually the joint between the two hoops broke and could not be replaced.  So when this Christmas came around, the top of my list was a set of PUGG 6 Foot Portable goals.  They had become even more needed in the month before Christmas as I started the pick-up soccer program and wanted to move beyond the arguments when the ball skipped over a cone or an airborne shot may or may not have been between the cones.

The PUGG goals are well constructed.  Each goal is comprised of a tent-pole like fiberglass rod with a high-quality net attached.  The goals are designed to fold-down flat to a size that can be easily slid into the trunk of my Honda Accord.  The folding process is straightforward (with instructions printed on each goal) and requires two hands and is usually accomplished on the first try.

Each goal has three anchors – one on each post and a third at the rear of the goal.  Unfortunately, when the ground is either rock hard or an artificial turf surface the goal can’t be anchored using these and must be weighed down.  A hard shot is enough to send the goal flying off base.

The kids though have loved getting to play with these instead of cones for goals.

But – I don’t think there’s a superior product on the market for the nomadic youth soccer coach.  As an aside – I’ve also brought these to my adult pick up games and found them equally useful.

Adidas Predator Youth Soccer Cleats 12 Month Review

5 Jan

Twelve months ago Aidan and I went shopping for new soccer cleats to mark his restart into the game. We’re now ready to retire them as we head towards Spring.

His selection was the Adidas Predator Firm Ground Cleat in the Electricity colorway. The shoes had been on my radar already. They were one of several shoes that had at least some natural leather on the upper (along with Nike’s new-not-yet-in-stock CTR360 II) in his size range. They were also in the magic $40 range that seemed reasonable to spend.

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After buying the shoe, we discovered that Arsenal striker Robin van Persie wore the same color and model of shoe! It helped inspire Aidan more.

Since walking out of the store. The shoes saw a Spring and Fall season of action (about 18 weeks of matches and 22 weeks of practice) with a lot of practice time in the front yard and pickup games added in.

How have the shoes held up?

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