It’s not a normal youth soccer season if you don’t have at least one bizarre situation come up that you hadn’t anticipated when drafting the rules (unless your club is over 10 years old – then you’ve probably run into all these already ) Our rules committee meets once a year and always has things they need to address and tweak, even after 5 years of our kids playing!
Most youth soccer leagues play by FIFA rules with a set of ‘exceptions’, mostly related to field and roster size (small sided), and also offside and slide tackles. The USYSA recommendations for U10 players is no slide tackling. But what about the keepers?
The Spring U10 season is always interesting. The U9s have adjusted to the faster more intense game and the U10s are continuing to develop. However, most teams will still rotate players through keeper to give all the kids a chance to learn the position. Obviously some take to it better than others and by the Spring, some are doing quite well at it.
Well this season, in back to back matches, we had two interesting issues with U10 keepers. First, our U10 rules state:
Slidetackles are NOT allowed under any circumstances and will result in a direct kick for the opposite team. Repeated slidetackling is grounds for a yellow or red card. Sliding to make contact with the ball is only permitted if no players are in the vicinity of the sliding player and ball (i.e. sliding saves). Sliding in the vicinity of other players will be considered a dangerous play and will result in a minimum of loss of possession.
Simple enough – don’t slide near another player, but allow sliding saves along the touchline if they’re by themselves. Then the following happened:
Match #1: The ball carrier is dribbling towards the right side of the goal box, looking to shoot. The keeper comes out and slides cleats up into the dribbler’s feet, missing the ball, and causing the ball carrier to fall onto the keeper. Referee awards a PK for a yellow card offense in the box, though only warns the player vs carding them. I was coaching the team of the fouled ball carrier and it seemed like a reasonable call.
Match #2: This was a faster breakaway towards the right side of the goal. The ball was well controlled, but the keeper made an good move and slid out to grab the ball, sliding feet first behind the ball and in front of the ball carrier, who immediately tripped over the keeper. The attacking team was awarded a direct kick.
Tough Call! The referee clearly called the incidents in accordance with the rules as written. But in writing them, we hadn’t meant to take away a keeper’s ability to make sliding saves and honestly don’t think we considered a situation like this. What do you think?
After a lot of interesting discussion among our senior coaches and referees, we settled on a compromise. Clearly, the first incident was a dangerous play and was called properly. We wanted to ensure any keeper ‘exemption’ was limited to prevent plays like that that could cause injury. Yet the second instance seemed like good play by the keeper and the player falling over them was ok. The keeper played for the ball and got the ball. We didn’t want to handicap the ability of the keepers to make good sliding saves. So we tried to strike the right balance and rewrote the rule to say:
Slidetackles are NOT allowed under any circumstances and will result in a direct kick for the opposite team. Repeated slidetackling is grounds for a yellow or red card. Sliding to make contact with the ball is only permitted if no players are in the vicinity of the sliding player and ball (i.e. sliding saves). Sliding in the vicinity of other players will be considered a dangerous play and will result in a minimum of loss of possession. Only keepers may slide within the vicinity of other players to make a clean play for the ball.
The idea being that keepers are allowed to slide near other players, yet a foul is still a foul. So Incident #1 above would still have been called a foul while Incident #2 would have just been a good heads up save. Hopefully this will cover it for the future.
What do you think? How does your league account for keeper slides in age divisions where sliding is not allowed?