Basic Soccer Rules for Beginners
I have played soccer since I can remember, and did so all over the United States. After High School, I came very close to playing in college (I had full scholarships) or internationally. Instead, I played on multiple teams at one time, and coached. I really enjoyed coaching, but the age group (U14, as in 13-14 year old girls) proved to be more trying than anything. The girls did not have the heart that I had at their age. I stepped down rather quickly.
I also was a referee for a few years, starting when I was twelve or so. I still play soccer recreationally, and hope to coach once again sometime in the future.
Soccer is a wonderful sport for a child to play. Not only does it teach and foster teamwork, it keeps kids in shape, and is great for people of all abilities and skill levels. If you feel as though your child is not ready to play on a team, coaches, schools, clubs, YMCA's, and other organizations offer one-on-one training and soccer classes.
Whatever your age (or your child's age), soccer - as with anything - does take practice. Along with practice, one must have perseverance, and a knowledge of the basic rules of the game.
Rules of the Game - Before it Starts
Below are the basic rules to soccer, along with some helpful information to better understand the game.
The game consists of two halves. The time of the halves depends on the age group. A standard adult game is 90 minutes long, with two 45 minute halves. Half time is typically 5 or 15 minutes, also depending on the age group and league.
Teams are comprised of at least eleven players (this, too, depends on the age group and league), as eleven players must be on the field at all times, for each team. To have more players is beneficial, as it allows for substitutions.The eleven players will include a goal tender, defense, midfield, and offense.
Players must be in full uniform. Team uniforms must match. Each player must have shin guards and cleats, which can not have metal spikes. Goalies may wear a different colored shirt than the rest of the team, but cannot match the other team. Also, goalies are permitted to wear gloves. As with cleats, they may not be made of materials that could be harmful to other players.
Each team has a designated side of the field for the entire first half of the game. Teams switch sides for the second half of the game. Their designated side is the side in which they play defense. The starting side is chosen during a coin toss prior to kick off. A captain from each team will meet the referees in the middle of the field, or on the sidelines (somewhere away from the teams). One will call the coin in the area. The winner decides which side of the field his/her team will defend.
There are usually three referees. One is the center. He/she has the whistle and the final say. The other two are linesmen or assistant referees. They are allowed flags, for providing directions (by pointing the flag) to the center. Linesmen advise the referee of off sides, if the ball is out of play (if so, who is awarded possession), and anything else that the center may miss, like a blatant foul. Referees wear distinct uniforms that come in a variety of colors, to easily distinguish themselves from players.
Simplified Positioning Terms
Forward = The front-most offensive line.
Midfield or Halfback = A position in between the forward and fullback. This person plays both offense and defense.
Fullback = Defense (right or left side of the field).
Goalie = The person that tends the goal; is allowed to use his/her hands.
(There are many more terms and more detailed positions. For a list and summary, go here.)
Rules of the Game - During Play
The game starts with a kick-off. To kick-off, two players from the offensive team stands inside of the circle, which is at the half-field point. No one else is allowed in the circle until the ball has been touched by the offensive team. One person touches the ball so that it moves forward at least one rotation. The second player may then do what they wish with the ball (pass or dribble). The game has begun.
Throughout the game, the ball tends to be knocked out of bounds. The soccer field is lined with white paint. A regulation soccer field is 60 yards wide and 100 yards long. If the ball passes over the outer border (white line) of the field then it is considered out of play. There are a few different rules to what happens next:
- Whomever touched the ball last forfeits possession to the other team.
- If the ball is out of bounds along the length of the field, the ball must enter the field by a throw-in. The player must throw the ball (both hands on the ball) overhead, with both feet planted on the ground.
- If the ball is out of bands along the width of the field (the goal line), then either a goal kick or a corner kick will bring the ball back into play:
- If the offensive team is the last to touch the ball, the defensive team will place the ball on the goal box (which surrounds the goal, 20 yards across and 6 yards out from the goal), and kick it. This is called a goal kick. All other players (besides the one kicking the ball and the goalie) must remain outside of the outer goal (aka penalty) box, which is 44 yards wide, and 18 yards deep. No player, including the one that kicked it and the goalie, can touch the ball again until it has reached the 18 yard (penalty box) line.
- If the defensive team was last to touch the ball, the offensive team gets to do a corner kick. The ball is placed in the very corner of the field, inside a small box. It is then kicked into play. This is seen as an advantage, as the offensive team can set up a play to attempt to score a goal.
Substitutions are allowed at the referee's discretion, while the ball is out of bands and prior to being thrown/kicked back in to play. This can only be done before a throw in or goal kick. Substitutions are not typically allowed on a corner kick.
A goal is scored any time that the ball crosses the goal line.
If the defensive team attacks the offensive team within the defensive team's penalty box, the referee may award a penalty kick to the offensive team. (There are a few factors that play into what would warrant a penalty kick. This is just a basic overview of what it is.) Just as with a goal kick, no one can be inside of the penalty box, other than the kicker and the goalie. The ball is placed 12 yards away from the goal, directly in front of it. The goalie may move horizontally along the goal line prior to the ball being kicked. One offensive player is chosen to kick the ball. If the ball crosses the goal line, it is a goal. If the goalie catches the ball, the game resumes as normal. If the goalie hits the ball out of bounds, the offensive team will have a corner kick. If the ball is deflected, the game resumes immediately. Any player can then kick the ball. If the ball is kicked directly out of bounds by the person taking the penalty kick, the defensive team will resume play with a goal kick.
If an offensive player is between the last defender and the defensive team's goalie on the offensive side of the field, he/she may not receive the ball from a player on the offensive team. This is called offsides. So, if an offensive player runs behind the last defender, and a teammate passes him/her the ball, he/she cannot continue the play (a linesman will notify the referee and the referee will blow a whistle to stop play). If the ball is deflected off of a defender (if a defender is the last to touch the ball), though, the play resumes. If the referee blows the whistle to stop play, due to an off sides, the defensive team will resume play by kicking the ball forward, from wherever the off sides occurred. *See the video below for a visual explanation.
Players may not deliberately touch the ball with their hands, other than the goalie. This is called a handball. If a player does touch the ball with his/her hands, the referee will stop the play, and award the other team the ball to kick.
A goalie may only touch the ball with his/her hands within the penalty (18 yard) box. If the goalie has the ball in possession, he/she may punt (drop kick) the ball, throw or roll it, or put it down and kick it. Outside of the penalty box, the goalie becomes just another player, and may play without using his/her hands.
There are two types of free kicks: indirect and direct.
- Indirect kicks are awarded when a non-dangerous foul has occurred. An indirect free kick cannot directly result in a goal. As in, another player must touch the ball, after it is kicked, prior to it entering the goal.
- Direct kicks are awarded of a dangerous foul or a handball, and can result in a goal (directly).
Offside Rule Explained
"There's room for boys' and girls' football in the world-that's what I believe." David Beckham
Basic No-No's for Players
As there are many detailed rules that determine how serious an offense is and what the the result will be (free kick, indirect or direct kick, yellow or red card, etc.), it would take a rather long time to explain. There are books designated to explaining more in-depth rules! Here are some basic things that players should not do during a soccer game:
- Deliberately touch the ball with hands, if not a goalie.
- Slide tackling (sliding on the ground in an attempt to win possession of the ball) from behind, with legs high in the air, when the opposing player does not have the ball, or in an attempt to hurt another player.
- Leaving the field unless during a proper substitution, or unless directed to by the referee.
- Lifting feet during a throw in.
- Retaliating after a foul.
- Intentionally tripping another player.
- Talking back to the referees.
Anyone Can Play!
I have refereed and played with people of all ages. Anyone - and I do mean anyone - can play soccer. Here in the US, there are outdoor and indoor leagues for people of all ages and skill levels. Get involved!
For us adults, the average person runs 5-7 miles every single game! You probably will not even realize it, because you will be too busy having a ball! (shameless pun)
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