THE BALL – LAW 2
The rules regarding the soccer ball are fairly simple and straight-forward as presented by the IFAB in the Laws of the Game, but coaches need to know a whole lot more about soccer balls than just the rules. For a full-sized (“Size 5”) ball, intended for outdoor use, under “Qualities and Measurements,” the Law states that all balls must be:
– made of suitable material;
– of a circumference of between 70 centimeters (28 inches) and 68 centimeters (27 inches);
– between 450 grams (16 ounces) and 410 grams (14 ounces) in weight at the start of a match; and,
– of a pressure equal to 0.6 – 1.1 atmosphere (600 – 1,100 grams/centimeter²) at sea level (8.5 pounds per square inch – 15.6 pounds per square inch).
In addition, the Law refers to certain quality standards.
The rest of Law 2 is procedural. Under “Replacement of a Defective Ball,” the Law states that if the ball becomes defective during the course of a match:
– play is stopped; and,
– the match is restarted by dropping the replacement ball at the place where the original ball became defective.
Further, the Law states, “If the ball becomes defective at a kick-off, goal kick, corner kick, free kick, penalty kick or throw-in the restart is retaken. If the ball becomes defective during a penalty kick or kicks from the penalty mark as it moves forward and before it touches a player, crossbar or goalposts the penalty kick is retaken. The ball may not be changed during the match without the referee’s permission.”
Finally, ” Additional balls which meet the requirements of Law 2 may be placed around the field of play and their use is under the referee’s control.”
Commercially, soccer balls are identified as coming in five “sizes,” Size 1 through Size 5, with Size 1 being the smallest and Size 5 being the largest. The Size 5 ball is the one described above in Law 2 and is intended for adults. The single most important point for youth coaches is that size matters! The size of the ball must be appropriate for the age of the youth players involved. Little feet need proportionally small balls in order for children to learn skills properly. The general characteristics of the ball sizes are:
Size 1 – Approximate ball circumference 18 inches to 20 inches; appropriate for ages 3 and under; also known as a “Mini” or “Skills” ball, it is also appropriate for all ages to use for “touch,” “control” and juggling like a “footbag.” This size ball is essentially not used for games.
Size 2 – Approximate ball circumference 20 inches to 22 inches; appropriate for ages 4 and under; also know as a “Midi” ball, it is also appropriate for all ages to use for “touch,” “control” and juggling. This size ball is essentially not used for games.
Size 3 – Approximate ball circumference 23 inches to 24 inches; appropriate for ages 5 to 8. They usually weigh between 11 and 12 ounces.
Size 4 – Approximate ball circumference 25 inches to 26 inches; appropriate for ages 8 to 12. They usually weight between 12 and 13 ounces.
Size 5 – Ball circumference 27 inches to 28 inches; appropriate for ages 13 and up.
In addition to the sizes, soccer balls are made in a large variety of colors, designs, materials, and costs. Some are considered to be “light” and others “heavy.” Some are more water-resistant than others. Still others have a feel more like leather while others feel more like plastic. Further, some feel “soft” while others feel “hard.” All of these can exist within the requirements of Law 2, as long as no material used in the construction of the ball is dangerous to any players.
Referees have full control over the acceptability of balls for a match. Back-up or additional game balls for matches should all be identical and must meet the conditions of Law 2. Additional balls may be placed around the field of play for immediate access, or held and made available by “ball persons” during the course of a game, as long as they remain under the watchful eyes of the referees. If an additional ball should get onto the field during play, the referee does not have to stop the match unless the ball is interfering with play. Usually a player will just kick it off. At no time should a ball person enter the field to retrieve it. The referee and assistant referees are expected to be aware that the extra ball is on the field and are obligated to have it removed as soon as possible because it represents a danger and may be confused with the match ball in play. If play must be stopped because of the extra ball, the match is to be restarted with a dropped ball at the spot where the proper ball-in-play was at the time the referee blew his whistle.
– There are other, slightly different, rules associated with the standards for soccer balls as promulgated by organizations, such as the NFHS.
– An interesting discussion of the soccer ball is available from Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ball_(association_football)
– All coaches need to be aware of the size and type of balls required by their organization for their age group and competitions and ensure that the right balls are acquired and properly maintained.
– Youth coaches need to inform the parents of their players about the size of the ball that they should purchase for their child. The balls need not be expensive, but do need to be serviceable.
– Youth coaches can also go further to request that parents have air pumps and needles to ensure that personal balls remain properly inflated.
– All players should mark their personal ball in permanent marker with their last name.
– A full complement of properly inflated balls, similar – if not identical – to the balls used for official matches, need to be made available by coaches at practice. Balls should be marked with the coach’s or team’s name. Balls should be checked before each practice and properly inflated before use. Players should be asked to inform the coach if any of the balls develop problems.
– Balls used for games should not be used for practice. The same type of balls used for games are encouraged to be used as practice balls.
– Suitability of a ball for a match is left to the discretion of the referee. Some referees have gauges, some use a “two-thumb push test,” and others use a “drop test.” In the drop test, the ball is held high in one hand and then allowed to hit the ground. On a firm surface, the top of the ball should return to waist level.
– See Law 5 for other references to the referee and the ball.
– Referees must be presented with the proper-size ball for matches, conforming to the competition rules as set forth by the organizing authority. The ball size should also be clearly stated on the written statement of local rules as handed to the referee well before the start of a match.
– The type and circumstances surrounding the ball does matter to coaches and players. Coaches must learn this and teach it to their players. A “light” ball will float. A “heavy” ball may not be able to be lofted easily. A water-soaked ball can be very problematic, possibly causing injury to the instep. In addition, it will rarely take on spin or “English.” A well-inflated ball will bounce higher on harder surfaces.
– Weather conditions can change the characteristics of a ball during the course of a match. Cold weather causes the ball to deflate. Hot weather causes the ball to inflate. Less waterproof balls absorb rainwater.
– There are a number of specialty balls. These include indoor balls, weighted balls, “speed” balls, and even balls with non-spherical shapes designed to improve reaction times.
– There is a set of FIFA standards established for match balls to be used in FIFA competitions. These balls must be tested and get a FIFA logo. Just because a commercial ball may bear a stamp that it is “FIFA Approved” does not necessarily make it so.
– Coaches need to have a pump and needle readily available at matches. The referee has no obligation to carry a pump, only to ask that a ball have more or less air or that it be replaced.
– Coaches must not use balls (for games or practice) that have gone “out-of-round” or have stitching that is coming apart or panels that have deteriorated. Similarly, balls with tears, cuts, pointed plastic or bulges, need to be discarded.
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