Chris Johnson

Chris has extensive, varied experience within grassroots and professional football.

He has coached his own junior team for six seasons, holds the UEFA B Coaching licence and offers 1-to-1 coaching as part of a football development programme.

He also works as a scout for an EFL League 2 club and has completed FA Level 2 in Talent Identification.

Previously he's been the assistant commercial manager for a club in the EFL Championship.

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It’s a long time ago now but when I last played football I was considered an outlier because I favoured light weight shin pads that I could slip down the front of my socks whereas many of my teammates preferred shin pads with built in ankle protection attached.

I always found that particular design to be too bulky and felt like I was going onto the football pitch with a pair of cricket pads on my shins.

Compared to what passes for shin pads now though my lightweight pair would be considered to be enormous alongside the tiny, almost apologetic plastic discs that some players are wearing.

In recent times, a concerning trend has emerged in junior grassroots football, where young players are opting for miniature shin pads instead of the essential full shin guard protection.

As ever, they are emulating the trends of high profile players with the fad of ever smaller shin pads popular amongst Premier League footballers.

I think it’s important to shed light on the potential dangers associated with this trend, emphasising why correct sized shin pads are crucial for player safety.

Full sized shin pads are by no means a mere accessory, but a fundamental piece of protective equipment designed to safeguard players from potential injuries.

The shin, the most vulnerable area in the lower leg when playing football, is exposed to various impacts during a football match, including collisions with opponents, stray kicks, and tackles.

Full shin pads provide comprehensive coverage, shielding the entire front of the leg from the ankle to just below the knee.

This protection is indispensable, especially for junior grassroots players who are still developing both physically and in terms of their skillset.

The decision to wear miniature shin pads, driven perhaps by trends or misguided fashion choices, exposes players to unnecessary risks.

Without adequate protection, the shin becomes susceptible to painful bruising, fractures, and other serious injuries.

junior player injured playing football

A mistimed tackle or an unintentional kick from an opponent can lead to severe bruising or even a broken bone.

Such injuries not only cause immediate pain but may also have long term consequences, requiring weeks or months to heal and hindering a player's development and enjoyment of the game.

Failure to adequately protect the shins opens up the danger of severe injury.

Even lighter injuries such as sprains and bruises are commonplace when players neglect to wear proper sized shin pads.

A recent case at our club involved a young player who suffered a stress fracture in the shin after a seemingly innocuous collision during a match.

It was a significant reminder to us all of the real and immediate consequences of choosing fashion over safety in football.

Junior grassroots football clubs have a responsibility for player safety and welfare placed upon them.

Coaches and organisers must prioritise safety over virtually all other concerns and enforce regulations that ensure players are adequately protected.

I think this should include setting clear guidelines on the type and size of shin pads permitted during training sessions and matches and I was pleased to read on an online forum recently of a coach that had told 2 players arriving to play a match with miniature shin pads that he was not prepared to put them on the pitch.

By doing so, they sent a message to all their players that helps to create a safer environment for everyone to enjoy the game and develop their skills without unnecessary risk.

Nobody is pretending that would have been an easy decision though.

Coaches find themselves in a difficult position when players arrive with miniature shin pads.

While wanting to create a positive and supportive atmosphere, coaches should not compromise on player safety.

It is crucial for coaches to communicate the importance of correctly sized shin pads to both players and parents, emphasising that safety considerations outweigh any fleeting fashion trends.

Thankfully, recent history would suggest that the current trend of miniature shin pads is most likely a passing fad.

Looking back at football fashions over the past two decades, various trends have come, gone and are now long forgotten.

Football at the highest level has brought us brightly coloured boots and unconventional hairstyles which have trickled down to junior levels but many of the fads have now gone.

Professional academies have taken a lead by introducing minimum standards, many have been banning things such as wearing non-black boots for years.

However, unlike many of these superficial trends, the choice of shin protection directly impacts player safety and as such clubs and coaches should address this by emphasising that wearing proper sized shin protection is non-negotiable.

It shouldn’t only fall to coaches and club officials to reinforce this though, parental responsibility should plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety of the child in junior grassroots football.

Parents are key stakeholders in their child's sporting experience, and their involvement in enforcing proper equipment standards contributes significantly to the overall wellbeing of young football players.

If needed parents need to be educated about the importance of correctly sized shin pads and the potential risks associated with inadequate protection.

Clubs and coaches can provide information explaining the necessity of full shin protection and the specific dangers of using miniature shin pads.

By understanding the potential consequences, parents are better equipped to make informed decisions regarding their child's safety.

Parents are often responsible for purchasing the appropriate equipment for their child and it’s important to resist the temptation to choose shin pads based solely on aesthetics or the latest trends.

The fashion of wearing miniature shin pads in junior grassroots football poses a threat to player safety and the risks of injuries, ranging from light bruising to severe fractures, and it cannot be underestimated.

Junior grassroots football clubs should embrace their player welfare responsibility by insisting on the use of correct sized shin guards.

Coaches should communicate the potential dangers to players and parents, emphasising that safety should always take precedence over fleeting fashion trends.

While football has witnessed various fashion fads over the years, the miniature shin pad trend demands immediate attention and intervention to young players safe on the pitch.

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