A Field Guide To Ridiculous Soccer Training Products

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There are a lot of stupid things. This is a fact that accompanies the idea of being a human being among other human beings on Planet Earth. Many of these stupid things exist because we, as human beings, are generally stupid. But there’s no real harm in a website devoted to capybaras that look like handsome Iberian tennis players or wearing a hat that’s made of fox’s head. (Well, that’s a bummer for the fox, but foxes are not to be trusted anyway.) Stupid things generally, whether they mean to or not, make us laugh. Laughing is good, etc.

Sometimes, though, these stupid things just become offensive in their outright, nanny-nanny-poo-poo dumbass-ness. (See: David’s thoughts re: nacho sundaes.) And there is a vile cottage industry of “soccer training products” that falls right into this “That is something you’re actually doing and you’re going to keep doing?” cross-section. The majority of Americans may not understand/give a shit about soccer, but the majority of Americans deserve some face-value respect, and some of the insane, gimmicky, bastardizing soccer nonsense that’s been pedaled out over the past decade or so is just rude.

Take the Soccer Pal:

This little guy is getting better at soccer, definitely. That is if “soccer” means “being an amateur ball puppeteer.” How guiding a ball-in-a-net with your hand and occasionally kicking the suspended orb translates to anything other than that kid’s little brother getting asphyxiated by the elastic string is not something I am able to see.

When one make a sports training product, you’d assume, the thinking would be that the more effective the product is at making its users better at said sport, the more it sells. You’re not trying to fool the consumer into buying something that won’t work/actually makes you worse at the sport. People, presumably, want to spend their money on things that serve a general purpose. While that’s definitely not always true—just look at the continued existence of infomercials—in a broad, life-long, worldwide sense, it is. The creators of these things are either sadly oblivious or evil-weasel entrepreneurs.

Because, look at this thing. (Thanks to Jason Davis for the tip.) As Kevin Lincoln told me, “really easy to dribble a ball when it doesn't go anywhere.” Also, using a BYU punter to advertise a soccer product is depressing. Or the Sweet Spot, which is supposed to keep your “laces tied and in place,” give players a “visual reference point,” and provide “better ball control.” When really all it gives you is the opportunity to say, “My feet are now wrapped in rubber.” Then there’s the Soccer Wave: “The New Wave in Soccer Training!” (Exclamation theirs.) It’s sponsored by Clint Dempsey, surely a leftover from back when he was still dropping US Soccer anthems on the Houston rap scene. It’s a ramp you kick a soccer ball onto. It lifts the ball into the air, and then it just stays there, sitting on the grass … because it’s a ramp you need to carry out onto a soccer field and fill with water.

And now there’s this, the Football Box. We have reached a point, as a species, and I don’t know what that point even is, but it makes me weep. The Football Box is, apparently, “an invention for children which allows them to play in a miniature-sized football arena.” You stand five feet away from your “opponent” and try to kick a ball past (rather: through) them into a shoebox-sized goal. There is a net separating the two sides because why not? Oh, and all the while you’re a human being standing in a box. Nothing against boxes—they’re really useful for holding things, and thinking-outside-of—but soccer is generally played in something that can be described as “not a box.” It does not seem too much of an overstatement to say that the very existence of this product is a base-level affront to humanity.

Unless you’re Benoit Assou-Ekotto or some other admittedly joyless pro, you play soccer, or any other sport, because it’s a fun thing to do. By its very nature, which asks people to use their feet as proficiently as their hands, stupid-looking funny things will happen when you play. Your feet don’t need to be wrapped in rubber bands or standing in a mini box-stadium to make sure of that.

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