Simple Rules for Parents
Written by Tom Ertel on January 11, 2016
RULE 1 – No Hands, please
I bet you knew that one. Most people who know nothing about soccer still know
that you aren’t supposed to use your hands unless you’re the goalie.
A couple of points to clarify.
First, the rule for a hand ball includes using any part of the body from the tips of
the fingers to the shoulder.
Second, the proper way to look at this soccer rule is that a player cannot “handle”
the ball. A ball that is kicked and hits a player’s hand or arm is not a hand ball.
This means that the referee must use his or her own judgment to some extent in
determining whether or not a hand ball is accidental contact or a purposeful
attempt to gain an advantage.
Put another way, the referee must determine if the play was
Ball to Hand (legal)
Hand to Ball (illegal)
Believe it or not, there is also a situation in which the goalie cannot use his/her
hands. This is sometimes called the back-pass rule. Goalkeepers cannot pick up a
pass that came directly from one of their teammates. In this case, the goalkeeper
must use his feet. Infraction of this soccer rule will result in an indirect kick from
the point of the infraction.
RULE 2 – Equipment
The basic equipment for soccer required by the FIFA Laws of the Game are:
— a jersey or shirt
Most youth recreational soccer leagues will provide everything but the shinguards
and the footwear.
According to FIFA, shinguards should be “covered entirely by the stockings, made
of a suitable material (rubber, plastic, or similar substance), and provide a
reasonable degree of protection. This leaves a lot of wiggle room!
Most soccer leagues will not allow a person to play or practice soccer without
shinguards. Purchasing good shinguards should be a top priority for every parent.
There are no requirements by FIFA that your child have shoes with cleats.
Technically, regular tennis shoes are fine – not recommended, but legal. Of
course, local league rules may apply.
There is also this general safety clause in the FIFA rules:
A player must not use equipment or wear anything
which is dangerous to himself or another player
(including any kind of jewelry).
No necklaces, earrings, nose rings, belly rings, bracelets, or tiaras. Soft
“scrunchies” in the hair are generally allowed as are soft head stockings.
If a child just had their ears pierced, any leagues will require that the studs be removed. As one fellow commented, is the hole going to grow back in an hour?
Lastly, the goalkeeper must wear colors which distinguishes him/her from the
other players, the referee, and the assistant referees.
RULE 3 – Start and Restart
A kick-off is the way a soccer game is started or restarted:
at the start of a game
after a goal has been scored
at the start of the second half (or each quarter in younger ages)
at the start of each period of extra time, if used
The ball is placed in the center of the field. All players must be in their own half of
the field and the opponents of the team taking the kick-off must be at least 10 yards
from the ball. This distance is indicated by the center circle on the field and will vary
some with age.
Normally the referee will blow his/her whistle to indicate they are ready for the kickoff.
The ball is in play when it is kicked and moves forward.
Note that the two-touch rule applies here
After a team scores a goal, the kick-off is taken by the other team.
RULE 4 – Throw-ins
A throw-in is taken when the ball crosses a sideline and leaves the field. The two
basic soccer rules for a proper throw-in are to have both feet on the ground and to
throw the ball with both hands over the head.
To clarify, both feet must be on the ground when the ball is thrown. The player
can hop, run, or do cartwheels up to the point where the ball is released but not
when the ball is released. Dragging the toes of one foot is considered legal.
Some people also have the impression that a properly thrown ball will not spin.
This is not true. A good player can throw the ball with both hands over the head
and make the ball spin by applying more or less force to one side of the ball. As
long as the motion is over the head and not to the side this is a completely legal
For teaching purposes it is common to allow players under the age of 8 to take
more than 1 attempt.
RULE 5 – Corner Kicks & Goal Kicks
A corner kick or goal kick is taken when the ball leaves the field across a goal line
– you know, either end of the field with a goal.
If the offensive team kicks it out, play is restarted with a goal kick. If the defensive
team kicks it out, play is restarted with a corner kick.
The goal kick is taken from anywhere inside the “goalie box” as it is affectionately
called. It can be taken by any player, not just the goalkeeper.
The corner kick is taken from – yes, you guessed it – the corner nearest to where
the ball left the field.
You may be confused at times in youth soccer games to see a goal kick retaken.
This is because the FIFA soccer rules state that the ball is not back “in play” until it
leaves the penalty area, the large box outside of the “goalie box” (see diagram if
needed). If either team touches the ball before it leaves the penalty area the kick
must be retaken, and if the ball is not kicked well enough to leave the area, the
kick must be retaken.
RULE 6 – Direct and Indirect Free Kicks
Direct and indirect kicks are two primary ways that play is restarted after the
referee stops play for an infraction.
For both of these the ball must be stationary before it is kicked and the opposing
players should be a minimum of 10 yards away. The 10 yard allowance is often
reduced for the smaller age groups and is left up to the discretion of the referee.
The simple difference between the two is this: On a direct kick you can score by
kicking the ball directly into the goal. On an indirect kick you cannot score. An
indirect kick must be touched by another player before it can go into the goal –
that is the kicker and a second person.
As a parent on the sideline, you can tell whether the kick is direct or
indirect by looking at the referee. For an indirect kick, the referee will
hold one arm straight up in the air until the second person touches the
ball. No arm up, it’s a direct kick.
There are many soccer rules around what causes a direct or indirect kick.
In general, a direct kick comes from a contact foul or hand ball. Everything else is
Also, be aware that some youth leagues will not allow any direct kicks until after
RULE 7 – Penalty Kick
A penalty kick results from a contact foul or hand ball by the defending team within
the penalty area – the large box on either end of the field. So it’s a type of direct
The ball is placed on the penalty spot or mark, 12 yards in front of the center of
All players must remain outside the penalty area and the penalty arc until the ball
is kicked. The goalkeeper must have both feet on the goal line until the ball is
If after the ball is kicked, it rebounds off of the keeper and stays on the field, the
ball is “live” and anyone can play it.
If after the ball is kicked, it rebounds off of the goal and stays on the field, the ball
is “live” and anyone can play it with the exception of the person who just
kicked the ball. If the ball rebounds off of the goal and back into play, the person
who kicked the ball cannot play it until the ball is touched by another player –
otherwise he/she will be called for two touches.
RULE 8 – Two-touch Rule
A player cannot touch the ball twice in a row when putting the ball in play. You will
see this called many times in youth soccer. It applies everywhere. You will see it
frequently on kick-offs, corner kicks, or direct and indirect kicks. If a kid barely hits
the ball and decides to take another swipe at it, that is a two-touch violation.
This also applies to throw-ins. A kid cannot throw the ball in and then kick it. Nope.
No way. No can do.
The only exception to this rule is on a drop ball restart.
RULE 9 – Fouls and Punishment
The common rule of thumb on fouls is “If it looks like a foul, it probably is.”
Too true. A player cannot kick, trip, jump at, charge, strike, push, hold, or spit at
So what’s the problem?
Soccer can be a physical, contact sport when two opposing players both want the
soccer ball and no parent or grandparent likes it when little Susie loses the ball
and ends up on the ground!
“Foul!” cries the parent. “Little Susie was pushed!”
What you need to know as a parent is that bumping or going shoulder-to-shoulder
while competing for a ball is not a foul until the hands or elbows come up. This is a
bit of a judgment call and not all referees will call it the same way. Some soccer
rules are actually not black-and-white.
Remember though, the referee is ALWAYS right.
The normal consequence of a foul is a direct kick for the opposing team.
However, depending on the type of foul and severity, the playing “dishing it out”
may be punished.
Punishment is given in soccer with yellow and red cards. The FIFA soccer rules
give the guidelines for when to give a yellow card to a player and when to give a
red card. I’m not going to get into the specifics here.
If a player is given two yellow cards in the same game, that is equal to a red card.
A red card can be given at any time without the player first receiving a yellow card.
When a player gets a red card, they must leave the game and their team must
play short. An ejected player cannot be replaced (unless they are ejected prior to
the start of the game).
RULE 10 – Offside
This is without a doubt the least understood rule by parents and coaches alike.
Check your local league soccer rules first. There’s a good chance that this rule
won’t be called for the U-8 or younger teams. You may be off the hook for now.
However, if you are a U-8 or U-6 coach you still need to know this rule so you can begin teaching your players not to be offside.
The first thing to know is that you cannot be offside on a corner kick, goal kick, or
throw-in. Don’t ask me why. Just accept it and go on. The explanation is too long.
Also, it is not an offense for a player to be in an offside position. The player must
be involved in active play as determined by the referee to be called offside.
As quoted from the FIFA soccer rules:
A player is in an offside position if: he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent.
An offensive or attacking player can’t be ahead of the ball and involved in
the play unless there is a defender between him and the goalkeeper. Or, you can’t
hang out at the other team’s goal waiting for the ball.
You can’t be offside if you are standing on your half of the field. Also, the offside
rule applies when the ball is kicked, not when the player receives the ball.
To accurately judge offside, one has to stay even with the second-to-last defender