Soccer is a great sport played by millions of young kids around the globe. It’s a sport enjoyed by people of all ages, skills levels, genders, ethnicities, and backgrounds. If you’re new to the sport, this guide will be your savior.
From my experience, you’ll need to learn the rules, practice your skills, and work with your teammates to achieve your goals.
I’ve been on three sides of the coin (yes, I know there are only two sides): player, coach, and parent. This is why I think I’m fit to teach you various aspects of soccer including the basics.
Now, let’s get into it!
Understanding the Basics of Soccer
The Objective of a Soccer Game
The objective of soccer is simple: to score more goals than the opposing team. The team with the most goals at the end of the game is the winner. In most 11v11 leagues, the game can also end in a tie.
The Soccer Field
The soccer field is rectangular in shape, with a length of between 100-130 yards and a width of between 50-100 yards. The field is divided into two halves, with a center circle in the middle.
There are also penalty areas and goal boxes at each end of the field. The goals are located at the center of each goal line and are eight yards wide and eight feet tall.
The Soccer Ball
The soccer ball is spherical in shape and weighs between 14-16 ounces. Its circumference is between 27-28 inches, and it is usually made of leather or synthetic materials. The ball should be inflated to a pressure of between 9-15 psi.
Here’s the size of ball you will be playing with.
|IDEAL SOCCER BALL SIZE
|3 years and younger
|3-4 years old
|5-8 years old
|9-12 years old
|13 years and older
The Players on the Field
From U13 and older, each team has eleven players on the field, including a goalkeeper. The players are assigned different positions such as forwards, midfielders, defenders, and the goalkeeper.
For younger age groups, there are usually nine, seven, or four players on the field for a team. As you go down in age, the fewer players you usually have but the field is also smaller.
Equipment and Gear
To play soccer, you’ll need some basic gear. Here are the three essential pieces of equipment you’ll need:
Soccer cleats are specially designed shoes with studs or cleats on the bottom to give you better traction on the field. They are made from lightweight and flexible materials. They come in a variety of styles and materials, so it’s important to choose the right pair for your needs.
Soccer Shin Guards
Shin guards are worn under your socks to protect your shins from kicks and collisions with other players. They come in a variety of sizes and styles, so it’s important to choose the right pair for your needs.
Soccer socks are worn over your shin guards to keep them in place and to provide additional padding. They come in a variety of colors and styles, but it’s important to choose a pair that fits well and is comfortable. Today, many youth soccer players wear grip socks with their regular soccer socks.
Understanding Soccer Rules
As with any sport, soccer has its own set of rules and regulations that govern how the game is played. I would say, besides the offsides rule, soccer is easy to understand. Learning about these rules is essential for any player who wants to succeed on the field.
A standard soccer match consists of two halves, each lasting 45 minutes with a 15-minute halftime break. However, the referee may add additional time at the end of each half to make up for time lost due to injuries, substitutions, or other stoppages in play. This added time is known as “stoppage time” or “injury time.
Depending on your age, the game length may be shorter. For example, for kids under 9, each half might be twenty minutes.
As I referenced, the offside rule is probably the most complicated rule of them all! At the same time, it is one of the most important rules in soccer.
Offsides are designed to prevent players from simply hanging out near the opponent’s goal waiting for a pass. This was called ‘cherry picking’ back in my day.
A player is considered offside if they are closer to the opponent’s goal than both the ball and the second-to-last defender (usually the goalkeeper) when the ball is played to them.
Please note that some younger age groups do not have an offsides rule so check your league’s rules.
Fouls and Penalties
Fouls are an inevitable part of any soccer match, and the referee is responsible for enforcing the rules and penalizing players who break them. Common fouls include tripping, pushing, and holding, and can result in free kicks, penalty kicks, or even yellow or red cards. Kids getting yellow or red cards is very rare in youth soccer but I’ve seen it happen!
A free kick is awarded to the opposing team when a foul is committed outside the penalty area. The player taking the free kick must wait for the referee’s whistle before kicking the ball.
If a foul is committed inside the penalty area, a penalty kick is awarded. The penalty kick is taken from the penalty spot, 12 yards away from the goal, with only the goalkeeper allowed to defend it.
Soccer Positions – The Basics
To play soccer, it is important to understand and try many of these soccer positions out. Each position has specific responsibilities and requires different skills. Here’s a breakdown of the most common soccer positions:
The goalkeeper (or goalie) is the last line of defense and plays a critical role in preventing the opposing team from scoring. They are the only player allowed to use their hands within the penalty area.
The goalkeeper needs to be agile, have excellent reflexes, and be able to communicate effectively with the rest of the team.
Defenders play in the backline and are responsible for stopping the opposing team from advancing towards the goal.
They need to be strong, quick, and able to make tackles and clearances. There are different types of defenders, including:
- Center backs: They play in the middle of the defense and are responsible for marking the opposing team’s strikers.
- Fullbacks: They play on the sides of the defense and are responsible for marking the opposing team’s wingers.
Sweepers and stoppers are also defending positions but are almost obsolete in today’s game.
Midfielders play in the middle of the field and are responsible for both defending and attacking.
They need to be fit, have excellent passing skills, and be able to read the game well. There are different types of midfielders, including:
- Defensive midfielders: They play in front of the defense and are responsible for breaking up the opposing team’s attacks.
- Central midfielders: They play in the middle of the field and are responsible for controlling the game and distributing the ball.
- Attacking midfielders: They play behind the strikers and are responsible for creating scoring opportunities.
Forwards (or strikers) are responsible for creating scoring opportunities.
They need to be fast, have excellent ball control skills, and be able to shoot accurately. There are different types of forwards, including:
- Target forwards: They are tall and strong and are used to hold up the ball and bring other players into the attack.
- Wingers: They play on the sides of the field and are responsible for crossing the ball into the penalty area.
Skills and Techniques for Soccer
In this section, we will cover some of the essential skills and techniques that you need to know.
Dribbling is the ability to move the ball effectively with your feet. To become a good dribbler, you need to have excellent ball control.
You can practice dribbling by setting up cones and practicing dribbling around them. You can also practice dribbling by playing small-sided games, where you have to dribble past defenders to score.
Good passing requires accuracy and the ability to control the ball. A good passer can open up the field for their team.
To develop your passing skills, you can practice passing the ball with a partner or against a wall. You can also practice your passing skills during small-sided games, where passing is crucial to creating scoring opportunities.
Shooting is the most exciting part of soccer. To become a good scorer, you need to have good technique and accuracy.
You can practice shooting by setting up cones and shooting at them from different angles. You can also practice shooting during small-sided games, where you have to shoot accurately to score.
Goalkeeping is a unique position in soccer. Good goalkeepers need to have excellent reflexes, good communication skills, and the ability to read the game.
To develop as a goalie, you can practice saving shots from different angles and distances. You can also practice your distribution skills by throwing or kicking the ball to your teammates.
Strategies and Formations (for Advanced Teams)
As players move up into the older age groups, strategies and formations become more important. A strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal, while a formation is the arrangement of players on the field. Here are some common strategies and formations to consider:
When on the attack, there are several strategies you can use to create scoring opportunities. Some of the most effective include:
- Possession Play: This strategy involves keeping the ball and passing it around until an opening presents itself. It requires patience and good ball control but can be highly effective against teams that like to defend deep.
- Counter-Attacking: This strategy involves quickly transitioning from defense to offense when you win the ball back. It requires speed, good decision-making, and accurate passing but can be devastating against teams that commit too many players forward.
- Wing Play: This strategy involves using the wings to create scoring opportunities. It requires players with good crossing ability and forwards who are good in the air but can be highly effective against teams that defend narrowly.
When defending, there are also several strategies you can use to prevent the opposing team from scoring. Some of the most effective include:
- Pressing: This strategy involves putting pressure on the opposing team as soon as they get the ball. It requires good fitness, coordination, and communication but can be highly effective against teams that struggle with possession play. Pressing the ball, especially in the final third, can wreak havoc on an undisciplined team.
- Deep Defense: This strategy involves defending deep in your own half and relying on quick counter-attacks to score. It requires good organization, discipline, and patience but can be highly effective against teams that like to attack with lots of players.
- Man-Marking: This strategy involves assigning a player to mark a specific opponent. It requires good individual defending skills and can be highly effective against teams that rely on a few talented players.
Formations refer to the arrangement of players on the field and can have a significant impact on the team’s performance.
Here are some common formations to consider:
- 4-4-2: This formation is one of the most popular and involves four defenders, four midfielders, and two forwards. It provides a good balance of defense and attack.
- 4-3-3: This formation involves four defenders, three midfielders, and three forwards. It’s an attacking formation that requires good wingers and forwards who can play wide.
- 3-5-2: This formation involves three defenders, five midfielders, and two forwards. It provides good midfield control but requires defenders who are comfortable playing in a back three.
I’ve written a detailed article about the different soccer formations.
Maintaining Fitness and Health
Playing soccer requires a lot of physical exertion, so it’s important to maintain your fitness and health to ensure you can perform at your best on the field. Here are some tips to help you stay in top shape:
To be a successful soccer player, you should be in top physical shape FOR YOU. This means you need to have good endurance, strength, and agility.
To improve your conditioning, you should do a combination of cardiovascular and strength training exercises. Running, cycling, and swimming are all great cardiovascular exercises that can help improve your endurance.
Strength training exercises such as squats, lunges, and push-ups can help improve your strength. Strength training should be ignored for younger youth soccer players. But, including them in your training regime as a high schooler is an effective way to accelerate your game.
It’s also important to work on your agility and balance. Exercises like ladder drills, cone drills, and plyometric exercises can help improve your agility and balance.
As a soccer player, you need to fuel your body with the right nutrients to perform at your best. Make sure you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and complex carbohydrates. Avoid sugary drinks and snacks, as they can cause energy crashes and affect your performance.
It’s also important to eat before and after games and practices. Eating a meal or snack before a game or practice can give you the energy you need to perform at your best. Eating a meal or snack after a game or practice can help your body recover and rebuild muscle.
It’s so easy to eat unhealthy foods and snacks all day but a little disciple will go a long way!
Staying hydrated is crucial for maintaining your health and performance on the field. This suggestion is easy in theory but often overlooked…just drink plenty of water! This means throughout the day, before and after practices/games, and as soon as you wake up.
Finding a Soccer Team in Your Area
If you want to play soccer in your area, there are several options available to you. You can join a town rec team, town travel team, or club soccer team. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Town Rec Teams
Town rec teams are great for beginners who are just starting out in soccer. These teams are usually open to all skill levels and ages, and they are a great way to meet new people and have fun. Rec teams typically have a lower cost and less commitment than travel and club teams.
To find a town rec team, check with your local parks and recreation department. They usually have information about registration and team schedules.
Schedules and commitments vary by town and age but you may find games being on weekends and a practice during the week.
Town Travel Teams
Town travel teams are a step up from rec teams in terms of competition and commitment. These teams usually require tryouts and have a higher cost than rec teams. However, they offer a higher level of play and can be a great way to improve your skills and prepare for club teams.
To find a town travel team, check with your local soccer association or club. They usually have information about tryouts and team schedules.
Looking back on my son’s travel experience, it was a great transition to club soccer.
Club Soccer Teams
Club soccer teams are the most competitive and expensive option for playing soccer in your area. These teams require a high level of commitment and skill, and they often travel to tournaments and games outside of your local area. However, club teams offer the highest level of play and can be a great way to prepare for college or professional soccer.
Instead of just a fall or spring season, club soccer typically goes year-round with a small break in the winter and summer.
To find a club soccer team, just go over to our directory where you will find the best clubs in your area by age group and league.
Having Fun While Playing Soccer
Playing soccer can be a lot of fun, but it’s important to keep it that way. When things are fun, you’re more likely to keep pursuing it. Here are a few tips to help you enjoy playing soccer even more:
- Play with friends: Playing pickup soccer with your friends is a great way to have fun and improve your skills at the same time. You’ll be able to work on passing, shooting, and other skills while having a good time with your friends.
- Try new things: Don’t be afraid to try new things on the field. Experiment with different moves and techniques to keep the game interesting and challenging.
- Set goals: Setting goals for yourself can help you stay motivated and focused on improving your skills. Whether it’s scoring a certain number of goals in a game or mastering a new move, having a goal to work towards can make the game more fun and rewarding.
- Stay positive: It’s important to stay positive, even when things aren’t going your way. Instead of getting frustrated or discouraged, focus on what you can do to improve your performance and have a good time on the field.
- Play fair: Playing fair is an important part of having fun while playing soccer. Don’t cheat or play dirty, and always respect the rules of the game.
- Play the FIFA video game: Parents may not like this but I think playing FIFA can help beginner soccer players learn about the game quickly. They can mimic real life and understand the different moves, positions, and strategies.
For players, parents, and coaches, I can’t stress this enough…make sure the kids are having fun! You want them coming back tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year.
Frequently Asked Questions
The basic rules of soccer include having two teams of 11 players each, trying to score by putting the ball into the opposing team’s goal, and not using hands or arms to touch the ball (except for the goalkeeper). After 90 minutes, the team with the most goals win.
Some tips for getting good at soccer include practicing ball control, improving your fitness level, working on your passing and shooting skills, and playing with more experienced players to learn from them. It’s also important to watch professional soccer games to learn from the experts. It is equally important to continue having fun in every practice and game.
You can start playing soccer at any age! The earlier you start, the more progress you will experience. Playing soccer can be a fun activity that opens up the door for new friendships and life opportunities.