Soccer Basics

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So your child has shown an interest in soccer -- just like almost 4 million other children who participate in their local youth soccer leagues.

Youth soccer has made steady gains in popularity, but especially so on the girls side, thanks to both Title IX and the World Cup won by the 1999 U.S. Women's team.

As a sport, soccer has a lot going for it. All players really need are shirts, shorts, shinguards, socks, shoes and a ball. In return, they get an excellent cardio workout and a great opportunity to make friends. As for the game itself, even the littlest players are fun to watch.

Intro to Soccer

For parents new to the game, here is a flash course:

  • Eleven players take to the field, including one goalkeeper.
  • Positions from the top down are:
    • "forward" (attacker/goalscorer)
    • midfielder (playmaker/center)
    • "wing" (outside midfielders responsible for crossing)
    • "defense" (sometimes a "sweeper" is included, responsible for anchoring the defense) "goalkeeper"
  • A game in which a team prevents the opposition from scoring any goals is called a "shutout."
  • "Offsides" is when a player who is positioned beyond the line of the opposing team's defense (towards the defensive team's goal) receives the ball.
  • A "free kick" occurs when a foul is made, and the opposing team gets a "free" unobstructed kick to restart the game.
  • A "penalty kick" occurs when a foul is made inside the box against the team trying to score.
  • A "corner kick" is awarded when the defensive team kicks the ball past its own endline.

Where to Play

  • U.S. Youth Soccer and AYSO are the two major governing bodies that provide guidance for the vast majority of youth teams around the country.
  • If your child is approaching the teens, you should familiarize yourself with the local high school sports program. At many schools, boys and girls play in separate fall and spring seasons (most high schools have only one soccer field).
  • If your child is a competitive soccer player, club teams usually play year-round. A word to the wise: travel costs for these teams can add up.

Now all you have to wait for is the whistle!

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