Updated: Jan 6
This blog post is in response to a request by many of you asking for more information for new soccer parents. Hopefully you will find this post helpful; it's a mix of links to helpful resources and some tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years. Toward the end you will find links to some really great free or low cost resources of which I highly recommend you take advantage.
If you are new to soccer parenting but not new to soccer you probably grew up playing soccer or have been a fan watching professional leagues and international play or playing FIFA. If this is the case you will notice right away and be very frustrated by the fact that things are not the same. Fields are much smaller, there are fewer players on the field and your kid is just plain awful (or your kid is great and everyone else is awful, which is equally as annoying). Many rules have changed since you last played and the coach even seems to have tactics that you don’t agree with. If this sounds like you, my advice is this: deep breaths, heavy drinking and lower your expectations. In reality, a sense of humor IS your best approach to your first (couple) seasons of youth soccer especially if you are starting early. BUT ALSO, assume you know nothing and enjoy relearning the game again with your player.
If you are new to soccer all together the resources at the bottom of this post will be your best friend. I highly recommend downloading Happy Feet on Audible and enjoy this amazing game.
Regardless of where you are in your understanding of the game or experience as a soccer mom or dad you need to know the three types of sideline behaviors: Supportive, Distracting and Hostile. Only Supportive behaviors are acceptable. Distracting behaviors include coaching and instructing from the sideline. Hostile behaviors include yelling at referees, coaches, other parents and players. To learn more and to pledge to make youth sports better you can sign the Sideline Pledge here.
Tips and Tricks from the Sideline
Don’t buy shin guards with stirrups and straps. No one wears those and they actually dig in and hurt kind of quickly. Get the shin guards that slide in with sleeves. It's ok if your kids don't want to wear the sleeves. Smaller is better.
Give yourself a ridiculous amount of time to park. Especially if you are playing games at TCYO, PASA or Lodi. There are plenty of parking spots (trust me), it just takes a long time to pull in, and get your kids out and walk (or find) your field.
Screenshot your game info. Yes, it's in your email or Team Snap but isn’t it so much easier to open your pictures and find it? No loading, no finding the app or searching your emails for the schedule that was sent 3 weeks ago. Screenshot before you leave the house.
Your kid can put on their own socks for school and church and everywhere else they go. They can also put on their own soccer socks. Unless their feet are sweaty or wet - then no one is going to be able to get those socks on, not your kid, not you, not Mary Poppins. Dry that foot off, take a deep breath, bunch it up panty-hose style and try again.
Folding chairs are disposable. Do buy yourself some chairs. Do not take out a second mortgage to purchase said chairs.
Buy a boot dryer. Thank me later.
Keep a trash bag with a change of clothes and bath towel in your trunk.
Realize you have no control of the outcome, accept this realization.
Basics of the Game
Head balls are not allowed in games or training before U12.
Trap = Receiving or settling the ball
Boots = Soccer Shoes
Kit = Uniform
Playing Negative = Playing Back (toward the goal you are defending)
Different leagues and tournaments have different rules (rules on offside, retreat lines, numbers of players, game length etc…). Many 9v9 and 7v7 play with a buildout line or retreat line. This line marks off the field into thirds and adjust the offside eligible areas and provides more room for players to play out on a goal kick or goalkeeper distribution.
You can learn about offside here. But let me just say, you aren’t going to understand it for a while. You aren’t going to be in a better position to call it than the referee and even if the referee is wrong - you aren’t going to change the call.
Being in an offside position does not constitute an offside infraction.
Most common fouls are pushing and tripping. Only the referee can call fouls. It might seem like the parents and coaches can call them. You can’t. Only the referee. For players age 9 and younger you will see a lot of kids on the ground. Even if there were no players around and no ball and the field was completely level with no wetness or clumps of mud, these kids fall when running. Lots of times a slight bump or the ball under their feet will take them down. The referee will judge if it's a foul.
The best way to understand the field is by visiting Rookie Road. Click on any of the “articles” and they will show you everything you need to know.
Only the goalkeeper can handle the ball. Handballs start at the armpit. The shoulder is not a part of the “hand” elbows are. But, again only the referee can call handballs.
If you know out of bounds rules for basketball and football. Forget them, they are wrong. Soccer lines are easy. If the ball is completely over the entire line it’s out (this includes the goal box and goal line). It does not matter where the player is or if the ball never touched the ground.
You do not have to ask for 10 yards on a restart. Defending players must retreat and remain 10 yards on a restart. Sometimes a referee walks this off, if he doesn’t and the defending player doesn’t retreat but gets hit by the ball they will receive a caution or yellow card.
Resources for New Soccer Parents
Although I spent an absurd amount of time on this post I am not ignorant to the fact that many smarter people came before me and some of the best resources for new to soccer parents are already out there. So, in order to wrap up this blog post I am going to leave you with some links.
Join a group: Typically folks find themselves on our website from one of our facebook groups. If you found your way here by other means and you are a parent in Kentucky or Ohio, please join a group in your area: Kentucky, Toledo, Cleveland/Akron, Dayton, Cincinnati or Central Ohio. Parents can join for free, post questions and join in the conversations. You will notice clubs, trainers, tournaments, leagues and referees are members too - these are OSMD Insiders who pay a sponsorship fee for promotional benefits and resources.
US Soccer Learning Center Introduction: This is a FREE 20 minute course. I recommend this to all soccer parents because it is short and easy and it is the first course that all coaches have to take as they begin their licensing journey.
Happy Feet, How to be a Gold Star Soccer Parent: This book is 1 credit on Audible and takes about 5 hours to complete. It includes 7 youtube videos for you to follow along. What makes this book and corresponding videos so great is that you can ingest, process and then share this with your very young players so they can understand the game better too.
Soccer Parent Resource Center: The folks at Soccer Parenting Association have done such a great job it would be silly for me to try to duplicate their efforts. If you visit their website they have a free 3 Day Pass where you can get unlimited access to their resources including online courses, FAQ, webinars and member-only articles.