Each season we have parents upset over the outcome of a match because of a perceived missed call. While we all know that calls get missed (and referee’s are saints! ) often the problem is due to parents not understanding the Laws of the Game. We started to send an email to parents before the matches began with a fairly detailed rundown of common misconceptions about the game. I find that we tweak it every year so I figured I’d share it here and see if other leagues include additional things or have better ways of explaining some of them.
One area I haven’t covered in this email is offside. We cover that in a second email since it is long on its own.
Here is the email we sent this season:
In preparation for opening day, I wanted to provide our parents with
some info about our league and game rules that may come in helpful
Players should arrive for their matches at least 15 minutes before the
scheduled match time! Equipment checks will begin 10 minutes prior to
the match at midfield. Remember – cleats with a single ‘toe cleat’ at
the very tip of the shoe are for baseball and will not be allowed.
Players without shin guards will NOT play.
All spectators must sit on the OPPOSITE side of the field from the
teams. This helps reduce distraction on the sidelines. Spectators must
sit 2 yards away from the touch line (this is indicated by a dashed
line along the spectator side of the field) This helps reduce the
likelihood of player injury as they run after a ball going out of bounds
and ensures they have enough room to properly throw in a ball.
Spectators may NOT enter the field of play unless summoned by the
referee. Any spectator that enters the field without being summoned is
subject to ejection from the sports complex.
Unlike other sports, a soccer ball is NOT out of bounds until the entire
ball crosses OVER the boundary. Thus, it will often appear that a ball
has rolled out of bounds along the boundary when it is, in fact, still
in play. The same rule applies to goals – a goal is NOT scored until
the WHOLE ball completely crosses over the vertical plane of the goal
line. It is legal for a goalie to stop the ball as it is crossing the
line and throw/kick it back into play.
A player must (in the referee’s opinion) DELIBERATELY handle the soccer
ball to lose possession (indirect kick) If the ball inadvertently hits a
players hands or arm it is NOT considered a foul and the match will
likely play on.
There is often confusion and concern about contact between players. Many
parents think of soccer as a ‘non-contact’ sport which is not true.
Contact between players during a game is very common. Here is a great
excerpt from an article written by Team Nelson – experienced coaches and
"Pushing with the hands is part and parcel of the six to ten age group
game. It occurs all over the field. The player wants the ball and
there’s always someone in the way, and half the time it’s their own
teammate. Keep in mind the following questions: Did anyone gain an
advantage? Probably not, no foul. Where they’re both pushing at the same
time? Most likely, no foul. Was it excitement or frustration? A push to
a player who just took the ball away is a frustration reaction and is a
foul that needs to be called."
Again – its about the advantage. Two players jostling for the ball are
not going to get called. A player deliberately pushing a dribbler down
to get the ball likely will get called. The same goes for holding –
there must be intent and advantage for holding to be called.
We’ve all seen it, a player is dribbling down-field with the ball on a
breakaway and is tripped by an opponent trying to steal the ball. Team
Nelson sums this up quite well:
"Watch the feet. If both players contact the ball first, it’s not a
foul. If the attempt was from behind, then it’s probably a foul since
most players at this level do not have the skill to execute this type of
The key is the feet. A trip from foot to foot contact is usually a foul
if there was no ball contact. But the most common occurrence is two
players striking the ball at the same time and one goes down – that’s
soccer and play continues.
Players MUST wear shin guards at all times during games and practices.
There will be NO exceptions to this rule! Mouthguards are provided to
U8 players and above and we STRONGLY recommend they be worn. We have
purchased a new smaller style this year that should fit your child’s
mouth much better than last year’s model. Contact your coach if you have
not received your child’s mouthguard yet. The mouthguards provided by
the MYSA must be fitted before use by heating in boiling water first –
read the instructions on the package carefully! You will get the best
fit if your child pushes the back of the mouthguard against the back of
their teeth with their tongue while you push it up against the front of
their teeth – THEN have them bite down.
Slide tackles are FORBIDDEN in ALL divisions regardless of their impact
on the progress of the game or proximity to the ball. The MYSA also
forbids playing the ball when a player is on the ground for safety
reasons since a player on the ground near the ball is likely to get
kicked – hard. But even if a player is all alone and makes a dramatic
sliding save at the touch line – this will be called for play from the
If a player falls onto the ball during play, the opposing team gets
possession via an indirect kick. This may seem strange, but technically
the player who falls on the ball is playing in a ‘dangerous manner’
(dangerous to themselves) The reason for this rule is to ensure the
downed player is not kicked and injured as other players try to get the
ball. In Biddy the kids get into a ‘zone’ of "I gotta get the ball!" and
often don’t realize they could hurt someone on the ground as they try to
kick the ball away.
Of course to make things even more fun, if a player falls onto the ball
because they were tripped or pushed (vs just falling on their own trying
to get the ball), his/her team WILL get the ball back via indirect kick
because a foul CAUSED them to fall on the ball. Confused yet?
One of the keys to youth soccer is to let the game flow freely and avoid
stoppages for incidental contact. The kids learn more this way. That’s
not to say a referee will just ‘play on’ after an obvious foul because
this teaches the players the wrong lesson. But we are also not going to
be overly picky about calls causing frequent stoppages of play when
there was no clear advantage. This allows for a fast paced match that
our players learn from.
We also ask that parents respect our referees. We all may disagree with
a call from time to time, but the ruling on the field is final and
screaming at the refs about a given call does NOT set a good example for
the players who are subject to ejection for arguing with a game
official. Parents should not address the referee’s at all during a
game. If you have a problem with the officiating of a game, you should
take it up with your child’s coach or an MYSA official after the game.
MYSA officials will be easier to see this year – they will be wearing
bring yellow shirts with a large blue stripe that will say ‘League
Official’ (in a few weeks – we’re still waiting for them to arrive)
Parents behaving inappropriately will be warned by the referee and are
subject to ejection from the facilities. Soccer is a fast paced,
exciting game and its easy to get carried away – just remember your kids
are VERY aware of you on the sidelines.
Probably a bit long (I’m well know for verbose emails), but we generally get good feedback from the parents on it. Thoughts?
Matches start March 3rd for us! Can’t wait!