5 Soccer Rules Every Parent Needs to Know

It happens all over the world everyday.  Parents yelling at a referee screwing up a call that most parents truly don’t understand.  Sometimes it’s quite funny to hear a sideline of parents explode into a sea of “HAND BALL” screams as a ball contacts a player’s hand.  Other times it’s quite scary as parents become so convinced a referee has missed a call that they not only start screaming towards the other team’s parents, but I’ve even heard them tell their kids to retaliate.  Can you imagine?  Telling your 10 year old daughter to purposely hurt somebody because you misunderstood a rule?  What an unimaginable situation… oh wait… it’s very imaginable because it happens everyday.  We’re going to explain the five most misunderstood rules so you’ll not only not be one of those parents, but maybe you can educate the other parents on your child’s team.

Let me preface this by saying I’m going to try to make these explanations pretty simplified.  Inevitably a soccer purist will take me to task about not explaining something thoroughly.  My goal here is to give a better general understanding to parents, not get them certified to be referees.  We’ll start with the easy stuff and eventually move to the dreaded offsides call.

“Out of Bounds Ref!

Such a simple concept, yet so many parents don’t understand the rule for a ball being “out of bounds” is different than most sports.  The bottom line is this… the ball must be COMPLETELY over the line to be considered out of play.  See the image below for a better understanding:

Make sense?  Also, keep in mind the same applies to balls in the air.  A player can even stand out of play while attempting to keep the ball in play.  It’s all about the ball and line.  The player’s position in relation to the field is unimportant to the rule.

“Hand-ball ref… Are you blind?!”

This one happens way too often.   The bottom line here is:  ball to hand is legal, hand to ball is illegal.  To be more specific, just because a ball hits a hand or arm is not automatically a handball.  The referee must decide whether the ball hit a hand by accident, or if a player purposely used their hand to gain an advantage.  In addition, a referee must also decide whether a player had enough time to move his/her hand out of the flight path but didn’t.  Many times it’s a difficult call, especially when it happens in a pack of players near the goal.   I will tell you that many referees seem to also make the call even if it could of been unintentional but it greatly impacted a possible scoring opportunity.

Here is a video that explains it further:

“Why did it take you so long to blow the whistle ref?

This one gets parents riled up quickly.  The scenario is this:  Little Timmy gets completely run over and the referee clearly sees it but doesn’t blow his whistle for what seems like an eternity.  The reason for this is the Advantage Rule.  Advantage is a situation in the rules in which whistling the foul would actually be hurting the team being fouled by not letting play continue. Also, it is not just the chance to continue with attack that a referee has to consider. The other crucial factor taken into account is the severity of the infringement. The referee also considers the position where the foul was committed as well as the atmosphere of the game.  In all fairness, I have seen referees handle this poorly.  Officially they are supposed to raise both hands and yell “play on”, which in an indication they saw the foul and they are allowing the fouled team an opportunity to finish the play.

“Injured player ref! Injured player ref!”

Here is another one that gets parents upset quickly, and with good reason.  Seeing a your son/daughter writhe in pain while play continues is difficult for any parent.  Yes, sometimes a referee misses an injury or a player has a delayed reaction.  In this case, the coaches or players are typically quick to bring it to the referee’s attention.  That being said, there are specific rules about when a ref should stop play for an injury.  

The rule law says the referee should stop for a “serious” injury, but let play continue until the ball goes out of play for minor injuries. The dividing line between serious and minor injuries is up to the referee.  Typically head injuries and possible broken bones are considered serious.  Also,  referees are usually quicker to stop the game when younger children are involved, especially if the player is lying near the action.   Another factor in the referee’s decision is whether a strong attacking play is going on — if the injured player’s team is about to score he is more likely to let play continue. 

Bottom line is even referees hate to see injuries and they are doing their best to weigh the severity of the situation.  I know every parent wants play that child to get attention immediately, but the referee has a job to do.  So… let the coaches handle this if you think it’s being mishandled.

There was NO way he was on-sides referee!”

We saved the best for last… The offsides call can be confusing and difficult to interpret for even the best referees at times.  That being said, it is very misunderstood by parents in America as Soccer is a fairly new sport in the US.

Typically this rule isn’t used at the youngest ages as it’s tough to teach at to kids under 10.  At some point the rule will come into play with your child and here is what you need to know:

Let’s start with this: You cannot be offside on a corner kick, goal kick, or throw in

Also, it is not an offense for a player to be in an offside position. The player must be involved in active play as determinedby the referee to be called offside.

FIFA soccer rules say: 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. Maybe a simpler way of thinking about it is: 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. Here is where most people screw this rule up:  The rule is applied WHEN the ball is passed, NOT when it is received.  So, just because you see a kid way ahead of the last defender when he receives the ball doesn’t mean he/she is offside.  In the above diagram the red square at the bottom with the ball can play to the player ahead on the right without any penalty.  He/she cannot pass to to the player ahead on the left as he/she is offside when the ball is played.  Again, playing to the player on the right is okay EVEN THOUGH the player on the left is offside as he/she isn’t involved in the play.

Other things to keep in mind:

You can’t be offside if you are standing on your half of the field. To accurately judge offside, one has to stay even with the second-to-last defender and not watch the ball. Listen for the kick of the ball and judge at the time of the kick whether or not the player was offside.  So, it is extremely difficult to make this call from the parent’s sideline.

I hope this helps clear things up.  It’s a wonderful game and it’s great to see your child develop a passion for the world’s most popular game.  I can’t stress enough that the coaches are watching all these situations and will do their best to hold the referees accountable.  Let the referees and coaches do their job and you’ll find the whole soccer parent experience much more enjoyable.

If you have additional questions please feel free to leave them in the comments below.  


By | 2017-07-06T20:14:26+00:00 May 21st, 2017|Categories: Soccer|Tags: , , , , , |Comments Off on 5 Soccer Rules Every Parent Needs to Know

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