Soccer 101: What To Expect At Youth Soccer Games

Here's what you can expect at your child's youth soccer game.

So you’ve enrolled your child in a soccer program, acquired the necessary gear and maybe even sliced oranges for the team. Now it’s time for the first game. Your kid is excited so, naturally, you’re excited, too. If you’ve never been to a game, here are three things you can expect:

Smallball

Soccer traditionally features 11 players – 10 field positions and a goalie – per side. That is unless your child is under the age of 13. In that case, that number may be reduced to as few as three players per side.

This is done for two reasons: First, sometimes there just aren’t enough players to field full teams; second, this gives players the field- and game-time necessary to build vital ball skills. Smallball rules may even allow for no goalies.

Magnetball

No mater how good the individual players, magnetball happens at every youth game. This is the phenomenon of all the players on the field being drawn to the ball as if it were a child magnet. Wherever the ball goes, kids give chase and attempt to kick it in whatever direction it goes, resulting in an ineffective scrum of tiny people flailing at an inflated bouncy sphere.

Don’t be embarrassed and think your child has no business on the field or that you wasted time and effort by introducing them to the sport. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a normal and necessary step in the children’s athletic development that will build their understanding of the game and how it moves and flows.

Have a Ball

In the beginning, this is all about fun — for you and your child. Have fun, make friends, don’t yell at the refs and let the coach do his or her job. Take it for what it is: a game being played by young children trying learn the sport and the sportsmanship needed to play it correctly.

Every soccer-great started somewhere and went through the same growing pains your child will experience in their youth soccer career. But they’d all tell you it’s worth it to take the pitch at any level and play what Pele called “the beautiful game.” As a parent, have fun with the process, talk to the coach and, if you can, contribute your time.

After all, like a cat and a laser pointer, watching a group of children all drawn to a moving point on the field has an entertainment value all its own, right?