Playing the Game
Once the ball is in play, the teams try to move the ball up the field toward the opponent's goal. A player may move the ball with any part of his body except for the parts between the shoulders and the fingertips. A player can keep the ball or pass it off to another player. The team without the ball does its best to steal the ball and stop the opponents from shooting.
Play is only stopped when the ball goes into the goal or rolls out-of-bounds (the entire ball must be beyond the outer edge of the line) or when a foul is committed. Play can also be stopped by the referee for any reason he or she determines. The clock is never stopped, unless there is a serious injury.
Dressing the Part
If you're on a team, you'll probably be given a uniform. Then it's your job to round out the whole outfit with cleats and shin guards. Cleats are leather shoes with small rubber knobs on the bottom that keep you from sliding on the grass. Shin guards are hard plastic shields that you strap onto the lower part of your leg to keep your shins from getting bruised or even broken.
Whenever the referee blows his whistle, play stops. It might be because the ball went out of bounds or because a player committed a foul. And of course, once play has stopped, it has to start again, and there are lots of different ways to do this — all depending on why play was stopped in the first place. These are called restarts or set plays.
Kickoffs are used for three different events.
1. At the start of a game
2. At the start of the second half
3. After a goal has been scored
The ball is placed in the center of the center circle. Each team must start the game on their side of the field. The defending team must also stay out of the center circle. The other team has at least one and often two players up near the ball. At the referee's whistle, the game begins. The ball is moved and then it's up for grabs. The player who kicked the ball first may not touch it again until someone else has touched it.
When a player kicks the ball over a touchline (sideline), the other team gets to throw the ball back in. It's the one time you are allowed to touch the ball with your hands as a field player. But don't just wind up and give it a toss. There are a lot of rules you must follow.
1. Both feet must be on the ground when you let go of the ball.
2. You must throw the ball equally with both hands.
3. Both hands must start from behind your head and come all the way over.
4. Your body must face the way you're throwing.
Most new players have a hard time learning how to do the throw-in properly. You can read the rules and look at the following picture, but the best thing to do is to get outside with a friend and practice it. Make sure you have someone watch you, though, because you don't want to be practicing an incorrect throw!
WORDS to KNOW
Touchline: Also known as the sideline. One of the two longer lines that are the boundaries of the field of play. The lines are included as part of the field of play.
Goal line: Also known as the endline. One of the two shorter lines that form the boundaries of the field of play. The lines are included as part of the field.
If you're defending the goal and can choose whether to kick the ball out over the touchline or the goal line, always choose the touchline. A corner kick is a much bigger advantage to the other team than a throw-in.
When the attacking team kicks the ball over the goal line (the end line), the defending team gets a free kick. This is called a goal kick. Sometimes new players call this a “goalie” kick. That's not right. In fact, at the lower levels of soccer, the goalie (or keeper) is the last player who should be taking this kick! The kick might not go very far and you want the keeper in the goal protecting it from whatever is coming back at you.
For a goal kick, the ball should be placed anywhere within the six-yard box, but most players put it on the corner of the box. You'll want to do this, too, because that spot gets you closest to the sideline and the farthest away from your goal. You need every advantage you can get.
The goal kick
If the defenders kick the ball over their own goal line, something very different happens. It's called a corner kick. The attacking team places the ball in the corner of the field, where the touchline and the goal line meet.
The ball can go directly into the goal on a corner kick, though it takes a rather talented kicker to manage that.
Make sure you pay attention to the referee's whistle. You don't want to pick up a ball that you think is over the line when it's really not. Otherwise, the other team gets a free kick because of your “handball.” And keep in mind, a ball is not outof-bounds until it has rolled completely over the line. If it's still touching part of the line, then it's still in play.
The corner kick
It's the Ref's Call
There are times when a referee might not call an obvious foul. This usually happens when the team that is fouled has the advantage after the foul is committed. For instance, if they were about to score, it would be unfair to stop play and set up a free kick just because the other team fouled. In fact, it might encourage some players to behave badly and try to foul whenever the other team gets close to the goal.