AIKEN - With nearly 100-degree temperatures, the key for players in the Aiken Soccer Cup tournament, which began Saturday, was keeping cool and keeping strong.
There were many approaches to beat fatigue and heat by the 173 teams that came from as far away as Greenville; Charlotte, N.C.; and Atlanta, not to mention the many teams from the Aiken-Augusta area.
Oranges, water sprays, all the sports drinks that end in a-d-e and some more unique examples were on display.
One team of boys under-13 from Columbia had small packets of energy gel. The gooey substance was advertised to have amino acids mixed with orange, berry, lemon and chocolate flavors.
"It tastes like soft glue," 12-year-old Andrew Richardson said after eating some of the gel. "I feel like I just took some steroids or something. I don't feel right."
The tournament, which ends today, is being played on three of Aiken's polo fields - Whitney, Powderhouse and Winthrop - with players ranging from under-10 to under-18. Admission is free.
At the Powderhouse polo grounds, which had 14 soccer fields in use, parents sat on one side while teams were on the other.
It's part of the rules to keep the games just games. Another rule: If a team or its parents get caught complaining too much about the referees, the team forfeits its $100 deposit.
Organizers said about 7,000 people attended.
The Nightmares, an under-12 girls team from Columbia, brought a bug sprayer pump filled with water to keep cool. They also brought their best game. At one point, the team was up 6-1 on one opponent.
Stephanie Funderburk, 11, said her team lives up to its name, which was passed down from year to year.
"We're scary, we're intimidating," she said.
Intimidation wasn't the purpose, but many of the girls on the under-13 Augusta Arsenals' Vipers put green dye in their hair to match their green uniforms.
Nine-year-old Cody Wilson from Easley, S.C., tried another approach to stand out.
The Tri-County Soccer Club member shaved his number 32 into the back of his head. Unfortunately, he forgot the green marker he usually brings to outline the cutting.
He said he didn't mind the two weeks it would take the hair to grow back.
"It's just to be different," Cody said.
Reach Matthew Boedy at (803) 648-1395 or email@example.com.