Friday, April 16, 2010

Make your own shin pads!

Some things are better when they are homemade. Strawberry jam. Flannel pyjamas for kids. Pie. But sporting equipment? No.

Graham, my friend from indoor soccer, has joined a ball hockey league and plays goalie. I don’t play ball hockey but these three things I understand:

1. The ball they use is pretty hard.
2. Fairly big grown men play hockey in this league.
3. Goalie equipment is expensive.

So, the resourceful Graham prides himself in his own homemade equipment: a lifejacket for his chest protector, soccer shin pads for his legs, and.....something for goalie gloves. They aren’t goalie gloves and they aren’t oven mitts, but something in between. And despite these precautions, he’s always showing us these brutal bruises he gets on his upper arms from ball hockey. I keep suggesting he gets some water wings to go with the life jacket, but I think he’s ignoring me. And a valid point could also be that it might be tough to get water wings large enough for a 40-something year old Burton Cummings look-alike.

This brings me to shin pads. You, dear reader, may remember that I mentioned in a previous post that I don’t wear them to play soccer, by choice. My legs are pretty banged up. Even though we play ‘gentlemanly’ soccer- no slide tackles or hacking away at each other- I do inevitably get kicked. And when I run my finger down my shin, there are pretty serious potholes in the road that is my leg. I say it is because I don’t like the loss of control, the way the ball deadens and bounces differently off shin pads than it does on your real legs. But there may be another reason.....

As a kid, I played on a great soccer team. Back before it was popular to do so, my team had car washes and bottle drives and did all kinds of fundraising to buy ourselves special new uniforms with our names and numbers on the back, team sports bags, and winter jackets like the boys got for hockey. We were expected to polish our soccer cleats with black polish before every game. The idea was that if we looked good, if we perhaps looked intimidatingly good to the other team, we might have an edge and beat them. And it worked! This was powerful for the self-esteem of 12 or 13 year old girls - to realize that we looked and were good. We had earned this.

But the problem was that my parents wouldn’t buy me shin pads. Most of the girls had these thick, white, sock-like things you pulled up over your foot, and wore under your soccer socks. Some had the cheaper plastic and foam kind that simply sat inside the front of your sock, which held them up. I had magazines.

Yes! My mom used to get this magazine called Homemakers which was a smaller, TV guide-sized magazine, and my dad used to stuff those into my socks. (Now that I think about it, perhaps Homemakers magazine suggested this as an alternate use for itself, the way they suggest saving all the little broken pieces of soap and moulding them together to make one big soap ball, to save money. Who knows?) Running up and down the field, the magazines would inevitably slide around once there was any kind of contact, and if my socks started to fall down a little, as knee socks are wont to do, the magazine would be revealed to all, and little bits of it would soon litter the field as I played. I wonder if it was good as mulch.

He also experimented with shin pads made of corrugated cardboard, thin foam, and masking tape. If I was a child now, perhaps he would save those Starbucks sleeves from getting a takeout coffee and simply slide those up my leg. He could even get some free Starbucks napkins and slide those up inside the front part for extra padding. (My dad is the sort of guy who will buy two of the same well-used car, each for a hundred dollars, and between the two of them, and along with some empty dog food cans, cobble together a vehicle that ‘works’.) He may have planned to save money on my cleats too, formulating a pair using old beer bottle caps and running shoes; we’ll never know.

So, I don’t wear them at all. And because I don’t know them, or really understand them, shin pads have on this kind of strange, mythical, otherworldly quality. Sometimes I see the beautiful metallic shiny red and cobalt blue ones people buy, and if you wear them with white socks pulled up tightly over them, under the turf lights at night, they sparkle and it looks almost like the shin pads have lights that flicker while you run. Talk about distracting the other players! I am ashamed to admit it, but at times I am mesmerized by people’s thickly padded, sparkly shins.

A few years ago when I had to buy shin pads for my daughter, I was amazed to find them for five bucks at Walmart. Five bucks! Why didn’t I just buy some for myself back then? That’s was maybe 2 hours of babysitting money. When I think back on my teenage years, sometime I just want to kick myself. And it hurts, because I am not wearing shin pads.


  1. Ha! Just think of the possibilities: old ice cream pails for helmets! Left over base boards for skis! I think we could build some sort of vehicle out of our old BBQ...

  2. use some cardboard for the shin pads then, haha! there you have it!