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New Soccer League: Kenya

Last year I sent some soccer balls to Jason Hovingh in Kenya. He used them to launch a cool soccer league that is now growing and really making a big difference.

Ethan: What inspired you to start the new program?
Jason: We asked ourselves, “what could we start that would encourage young people?” We came up with the idea of a soccer league. I knew we had enough soccer balls, thanks to Charity Ball!

Ethan: Tell us about the kids who are involved.
Jason: There are over 130 youth who are participating in the league so far. They all come from the nearby communities that are very poor. Most play barefoot, but dream of one day having their own cleats. Each team was given a ball from Charity Ball.

Ethan: How does the league work?
Jason: We have 12 teams and a lead committee that governs the league. Games are played on the weekends and teams play each other twice. 3 points are awarded for a win and 1 point for a tie. We have volunteer refs and linesmen. There are vendors who sell snacks and sodas, so the spectators have been numerous.

Ethan: What are you hoping to accomplish with the program?
Jason: We hope to point the players to God and encourage lifestyles that are responsible.

Ethan: What has the experience been like for you?
Jason: I have been surprised how many teams sprung up to join the league. I am also surprised how many spectators come to watch. I recently injured my ACL in a soccer match, and later had surgery. I was surprised how compassionate the people in the league were to me. They would run and get me a chair to sit on while I arrived on crutches to watch the matches and hang out with the youth. The assistant chief commented on Monday that the crime rate has gone down since the league started.

Jason shared with me that he would love for all 130 kids to have their own soccer balls. Jason, we’re going to help you make that happen. Keep up the great work!

Custom Soccer Balls: Bounce Athletics

I recently had the privilege to interview Zach Jonker and ask him a few questions about soccer balls. Zach and his buddy Mike Atchison run a custom soccer ball company in Petosky, Michigan called Bounce Athletics. What these guys do is really awesome.

Ethan: Tell us about Bounce Athletics.

Zach: Bounce Athletics is a Michigan based custom soccer ball and training vest supplier that is fully committed to giving back to the game we love. We offer camp/rec, training, and competition balls. All of our balls and vests can be fully customized using our beautiful designs with your organization’s logo. We also offer skill balls and stock training balls and futsal balls.

Ethan: There are different qualities of soccer balls. Talk to us about the different types.

Zach: When talking about ball quality the first thing you look at is the outer cover of the ball. The best hand-stitched training and match balls are made from different types of Polyurethane (PU). Recreational level hand stitched balls are made from PVC. PVC is more durable, but much less supple and responsive. Machine stitched balls have become a popular low cost alternative within the past few years. Most of these balls are made from a TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane). This material tends to be very sticky, especially in humid weather, which makes technical training difficult. Layers of polyester, cotton, or foam (or a combination thereof) are adhered to the back of the outer cover to provide cushion.
Inside this shell sits the bladder.

 

Ethan: We recently talked about the different kinds of soccer ball bladders…

Zach: Soccer balls feature either a butyl or latex bladder. Top level training and match balls all have a latex bladder as it is more elastic and responsive. This helps the ball explode off the foot. Latex is a rather porous material though. This is why you need to re-inflate top level balls once a week. Butyl bladders are not as elastic and a bit heavier, but they are much less porous. Good butyl bladders will hold air for most of the season which is very convenient for the coach and player. It really depends on your preference. If you are more performance oriented and don’t mind pumping up your training balls weekly we recommend latex. For younger travel players and recreational level players we recommend butyl bladders. Futsal balls have foam injected into a buytl bladder to provide a dead bounce effect.

Ethan: How does the quality of the ball influence a soccer game?

Zach: The quality of the ball plays a huge factor in any match. The best match balls include only the highest grade PU backed by polyester and micro foam with a latex bladder. They should explode off the foot so proper air pressure is also important. A poor quality or under inflated ball can really impact the game in a negative manner. Typically a poor quality ball takes away any technical advantages one team may have and favors a the lesser skilled team. The best balls in the world all meet FIFA’s most exacting standards. Visit http://footballs.fifa.com/ for more details.

Big thanks to Zach for the time & insight. Bounce is partnered with Charity Ball and gives 5% of their total sales to help us get kids in poverty-stricken communities new soccer balls. For More information visit Bounce online.

Making it Count!

This past weekend I was presented with a check on behalf of Charity Ball for $1,318.55.

It wasn’t directly from a company or somebody who has a large bank account, instead it was from a team of 11 twelve-year old boys. Chris Hofland’s U12 USA soccer team (Holland, MI) went out and did odd jobs to raise money for Charity Ball and to help poverty-stricken kids around the world receive new, quality soccer balls. Some of the guys went out and sold doughnuts at soccer games, some raised money at garage sales and others were courageous enough to ask their friends and family for cash donations. This is so cool. It goes to show that you don’t have always have to be an adult in order to help people. Kids too can can make a difference and change the world. A big thanks to the USA U12 Soccer Team. Way to go guys!

How to Prepare for a Soccer Game

Have you every wondered what you should do to get ready to play your best? My brother and I play a lot of soccer around our house and we’re always thinking about how to play our best. Here are some things we do to gear up.

1. Mental
We both have soccer journals that we keep. Each week we write down different things that we learned in practice or from the last game. We often list stuff we could improve on and read over it on the way to the game so it’s fresh in our minds when we hit the field. We also visualize ourselves doing what we want to do in a game, like step-overs or shooting the ball in the back of the net. Sometimes we write moves on our hands that we want to use in a game.

2. Nutrition
You won’t see us at McDonalds or sipping a soda that often. What you eat has a lot to do with how you play. We try to eat things that have a lot of protein (eggs, chicken, fish, some veggies) and good carbs (pasta, whole wheat sandwiches etc.) on the night before and on game day. Cliff or Power Bars are usually in the car for some quick fuel. If we want something sweet, we typically do fruit like apples, oranges, or strawberries.

3. Hydration
The body is made up of about 70% water. When you play you sweat and lose water. When you lose water, you lose energy and the ability to think clearly. You want to be your best physically and mentally for the game. How much water you have in your system will impact that. We try to start drinking extra water 24 hours before the whistle blows. I (Ethan) have a gallon Gatorade cooler that I carry around and sip on 24 hours before each game. You might think I’m crazy, but I can tell a big difference when I don’t. I usually drink water with ice, but I’ve read that it’s best to drink it room temperature so that your body doesn’t have to use energy to break down the ice.

4. Sleep
We try to get to bed at a good time the night before. A minimum of 8-9 hours of sleep is what we shoot for. We’ve played at tournaments where guys stay up late messing around and it always impacts their performance the next day. We’ve learned our lessons. If we want to play well and help the team, we need to get good sleep.

5. Physical
Before the game I (Ethan) am always getting focused by stretching out and juggling. I try to get a lot of quick touches on the ball to quicken my feet. Good players should get 1000 touches on the ball each day. When I arrive, I take a slow jog with the ball around the field to get focussed. After, I do individual drills to prepare myself and then do team warm-ups with the rest of the guys so I’m at 100%. If my feet are sore before the game I will ice and tape them up.

Playing for Something Bigger

This weekend my U14 Lakeshore Premier Soccer team is playing in the Novi Jags Tournament in eastern Michigan. It’s going to be a blast. When we play, we always play to win, but this time our team is playing for something a little bit bigger. We’re playing for kids in Japan who lost everything in the tsunami last year.

Our goal is raise enough money to give 100 kids, who currently live in the Tsunami Zone, new, quality soccer balls. Most of these kids have lost their homes and everything they own. Some of them have even lost family members. Approximately 19,000 people died from the catastrophe. I know from experience, that it would be huge for many of these kids to receive a new soccer ball when everything else is lost.

We’re wearing the new Charity Ball special edition “all red” kit. Hopefully it will be a big hit and creates some hype around the cause! Our team will also be spreading the word during the tourney and telling people what Charity Ball is all about. If you would like to sponsor our team or donate a soccer ball, you can give online here.

Off to Africa

Hope College student, Sam Tzou (Holland, Michigan) stopped by the office today and picked up 26 new soccer balls to take with him to Africa. He and some friends will be hand-delivering the balls to kids in Livingston, Zambia over the next few weeks.

Sam, thanks for helping us make it possible for kids in Zamibia to have ball!

 

 

 

 

How to Clean a Soccer Ball

* Due to Coronavirus, this article was updated with disinfecting instructions. View updated post

Every now and again, someone will ask, “What is the best way to clean a soccer ball?” Good question. Balls can get pretty ugly after a while and if you play on a turf field, the artificial pitch can make things even worse. There are probably a dozen different ways to do this, but here’s what we do at our house:

  1. Begin by rinsing the ball with clean water. Try not to drench it, because the water can eat away at the seams over time. Use a rag and get rid of all the loose dirt.
  2. Once all the loose dirt is gone, we need to use a cleanser. Soap doesn’t always do the trick, so we take it up a notch. Grab some diluted Simple Green and spray the ball. We usually use a 50/50 mix: 50% Simple Green and 50% water. (We talked to some of the guys at Adidas and they tell us that 409 can make it happen as well.)
  3. Spray the diluted Simple Green on the ball and wait about 30 seconds. It will loosen the grime.
  4. Next, take a 3M Scotch-Brite pad and gently scrub each section of the ball . Make sure you take it easy around the decals. (Scotch-Brite tip from Coach Brent Kowalski)
  5. Rinse with a wet cloth, dry with a towel and call it good.

Soccer City

When I was in South Africa a few days back, my family and I got to take a private tour of Soccer City-the stadium where the 2010 FIFA World Cup championship was played. It was sensational! Soccer City is also known as FNB stadium. It has a capacity of around 90,000 +/- and is located in Johannesburg. We got to explore almost everything. We sat in the stands. We walked down the same tunnel the players walk down. We kicked the ball around in the warm-up room. We even got juggle and dribble on the side of the pitch a bit. I loved it. Someday I hope to play there professionally. -Ethan King

Having a Ball

This is Joseph. His lives in Kliptown – a shanty-town outside of Johannesburg. When I was in South Africa last week, I saw him pushing an old toy car around through the dirt. Joseph was supposed to be at creche (preschool) but he was feeling sick, so his mother made him stay home. As soon as we saw him, we knew he needed a soccer ball. As we walked over, he stared us down – probably wondering, “who are these guys.” I walked over and handed him a new ball. At first there wasn’t much of an expression. I think he was still wondering what we were up to. Once he dropped the ball to feet and started kicking it around – it seemed like he forgotten about his stomach ache. In matter of time he was all smiles. His mom said that up until this point, he had never owned his own soccer ball. Maybe he might be the next Drogba. Who knows?

Comoequa

My brother just got the 2012 African Cup of Nations Match Ball (the Comoequa) for his birthday. Adidas doesn’t sell the ball in the US. Ever since we planned our trip to South Africa, my brother has been wanting the ball. The Comoequa is named after the Como River that runs through the co-hosts countries, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. The Comequa is designed and constructed the same way as the Tango 12, the official match ball for the Euro 2012. I have had the chance to have a kick about with the ball and it is a huge improvement on the 2010 Jabulani WC ball. Congrats again to Zambia on the win. Check out promo video here.