You only need two things to practice soccer skills: a ball and a goal. Ball sizes and materials are standard, and any player has at least a few soccer balls rolling around the garage. But what should you look for when you’re buying a soccer goal? What other tools do you need to turn your field or backyard into the ultimate soccer training venue? This buying guide for soccer goals, rebounders, and barricades will help you determine the right soccer training tools for your needs.

Soccer Goals

The type of soccer goal you will buy depends on the caliber of player you are. Kids who are just starting out on the field don’t need expensive, high-end soccer goals that can absorb the serious hits a more experienced player would deliver. There are three factors separating one soccer net from the next: durability, portability, and size.

Durability

The fastest soccer shot ever recorded was 131 miles per hour. Even if you’re not quite at that level (yet!), you want a net that’s going to last you several seasons of tough shots. A soccer net needs to be able to withstand all kinds of abuse, especially if you’re keeping your soccer goal outdoors.

Metal soccer frames are heavy duty, but can injure indoor surfaces and are difficult to move. Fiberglass frames offer superior structural performance – even professional soccer players with the strongest shots would find it a challenge to knock these nets over. Look for fiberglass frames that have some kind of protection or cushioning around the rods for added shock absorption. Even if you hit the frame, the soccer ball won’t come flying back at you.

Soccer goals with stakes give you the flexibility to practice on windy days without worrying that your net is going to take off. Practice on multiple surfaces? Some nets include both soft-ground and hard-ground stakes for optimum play. If you’re kicking the ball indoors, your net should have pockets on the side so you can weigh it down to prevent any movement.

Portability

Weight is a major factor in portability, but the lightest soccer net won’t do you any good if it’s too cumbersome to carry. Pop-up soccer nets are convenient to take along and are easily stored when not in use. Look for a soccer goal that has either a shoulder strap or a carrying bag so you can keep your hands free. If you’re staking your soccer goal, make sure there’s a spot to hold the stakes as well. Can you hang the net when you’re not using it? You don’t want your soccer net gathering dust on the garage floor.

Portable rectangular soccer goals fold up into a triangle. When you’ve got a regulation soccer net, even a folded triangle can get very large. You can save space by opting for a half-moon soccer goal. This type of goal is less versatile than the rectangular goals because you can’t shoot for the corners. But it’s perfect for backyard warriors who want to run some drills at the park, a friend’s house, or the playground at a moment’s notice. Keep it in your trunk and you’ll be ready for instant games!

Size

You can find soccer nets in almost any size, from 8’ x 24’ for professional players to just 4’ x 6’ for kids under six. A practice goal doesn’t need to be as large as a regulation goal; your space constraints and budget will be determining factors when choosing a soccer net. Full size goals are typically less portable and don’t usually cross pop up (although Rukket’s 4x6 Grasshopper goal is an exception). Smaller goals mean smaller targets, and if you can aim small then you’ll miss small when it’s game time. Practice hitting a small net every time, and suddenly that regulation soccer goal will seem like a wide open target.

Soccer Rebounders

When you want to log some practice time but can’t find a teammate to play with, a rebounder lets you get those hours in on your own. Soccer rebounders can help you improve your technical skills in the offseason. Most are adjustable and can serve up multiple return angles so you can really hone your accuracy. What should you look for when buying a soccer rebounder?

Durability

As with all sports equipment, durability is key. Avoid cheaply made plastic frames, which can break or splinter, and look for thick, steel frames with weatherproof coatings. Weatherproofing is especially important if your rebounder will be exposed to the elements.

Nets may be secured to the frame with springs or with bungees. Springs can rust and stretch. Bungees offer a bit more flexibility, since they can be added or removed to adjust bounce-back power. They are also less expensive and easier to replace.

The soccer net itself should be made of a highly durable material. Net thickness is measured by ‘ply,’ or the number of layers it is composed of. The higher the ply, the thicker the net is. Soccer balls hit hard and fast, so you’ll want a high-ply rebounder net. If you’re performing soccer drills with smaller balls, your soccer rebounder will need a tighter weave. Small weaves offer a better reaction to your strikes, so you can finely tune your kicking skills.

Adjustability

Rebounders allow soccer players to develop hand-eye coordination and improve reaction times. Stationary rebounders are good for beginner players who are practicing form and other basic skills. More advanced players will appreciate adjustable rebounders; they have multiple return angles to better simulate the passes you might receive in a game. Switch up your practice session by changing the angles for an entirely new experience.

Look for a rebounder that’s easy to adjust. You don’t want something with a lot of moving parts, or that requires tools for setup, takedown, or adjusting. The more time you have to spend fiddling with the adjustments on your rebounder, the less time you’ll spend practicing.

Versatility

Very few rebounders are suitable for indoor use. If you do want to use your rebounder indoors as well (and who wouldn’t?), look for one with silicone pads so you don’t ruin your floors. An indoor rebounder should be heavy and sturdy. You won’t be able to stake it down, so a stable base that will remain upright is a necessity for indoor use.

While portable rebounders are convenient, they may be too flimsy to withstand the rigors of advanced soccer practice. If you want a portable soccer rebounder, make sure you find one that is durable and well made so it doesn’t collapse on impact.

Soccer Barricades

A hit from a rogue soccer ball is never fun. Barricades confine your playing space so you can safely practice your skills without worrying about innocent bystanders (or your neighbor’s windows).

Durability

Since a barricade doesn’t need to withstand the repetitive impact of a soccer ball, you don’t have to be as concerned about the netting. Knotless netting is typically a better choice than knotted netting, as it is more durable. However, knotted netting can be repaired more easily, since you just have to retie the knot. Since most barricades are left outside, your netting should be made of a mildew-resistant material like nylon, polyethylene, or polypropylene.

The frame and base should be heavy and durable; you don’t have to worry about weight because most barricades remain in place all year long. A steel frame with a weatherproof coating is ideal. Ease of setup and takedown are less of a concern, as you probably won’t be moving your backstop netting with any regularity.

Size

Don’t skimp on your soccer barricade. If a ball does go wide, you want to make sure the people and property around you are protected. While you do want as much netting as you need to protect your space, it’s better to buy several smaller sections of backstop netting rather than one large net. That way, if a portion of the net breaks or frays, you only have to replace a small section rather than the entire thing.

How to Choose a Vendor

Many soccer training tools are purchased online, so you don’t get to try before you buy. It’s hard to know if it’s a high-quality item when you can’t see it in person. Since you may not have the opportunity to physically touch the soccer goal, rebounder, or barricade before you buy it, there are two ways you can better your odds of making a wise purchase.

First, look at the online reviews. Are there any trends? Do people consistently complain that the soccer goal falls over or that the rebounder doesn’t have enough tension? Online reviews of soccer goals and other training tools are your best clue as to how the product might perform.

Secondly, check to see if the vendor has a guarantee. If your soccer net breaks or your barricade rips, what will the company do to remedy the situation? Is there a warranty? Don’t risk ending up with a defective product; look for a company that has the confidence to stand behind its products with a lifetime guarantee.

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