Instructional Basic Soccer Rules


Youth Soccer Coaching Manual for an Instructional Soccer Program


Before beginning any activities, all players and parents must be taught the specifics of wearing shinguards and not wearing anything that could be dangerous to themselves or to other players.  This includes all of the detail contained in Law 4 of the Laws of the Game, “The Players’ Equipment.”  There are not exceptions for what can not be worn.

Otherwise, for the Instructional Soccer Program, there are really only three basic soccer rules that need to be taught, “ball in and out of play,” “hands” and “dangerous play.” In addition to acting upon violations of these rules as they occur, instances of holding, tripping, kicking, knocking someone down and any other unsporting conduct, need to be dealt with immediately. Play must be stopped and everyone informed that the conduct is against the rules and unacceptable.


Using the grid, whether marked by lines, saucers or cones, identify the inside of the field of play and the outside of the field of play.  For drills, inform the players that they need to stay inside the field of play and, if they go outside of the field of play, they simply need to come back.  For scrimmages, inform the players that when one player kicks the ball outside of the field of play, the ball goes to the other team.  (There is no need to get into the details of the ball having to be “all the way over the line.”)   During scrimmages, it is recommended that “kick-ins” be used to put the ball back into play.  Simply ask the defenders to back up so that the kick-in will be successful.  (See Format for an Instructional Soccer Scrimmage.)


Players at this age should be taught that, except for when directed by the coach, no one is to use their hands to touch the ball inside the field of play while the game or practice is going on. This approach is usually more than sufficient to introduce the handling rule. If it appears that the children understand this easily, coaches can expand the instruction to include that soccer’s “funny definition” of “hands” means everything from the articulation of the arm/shoulder joint down to the tips of the fingers. Finally, the coach may introduce that there is an exception for goalkeepers. If the coach has enough time, the parents can be instructed on the difference between “intentional” and “unintentional” handling.

For a detailed explanation of the handling rule, see Hand Ball! (Handling)


Players at this age should be taught that, because it is dangerous to themselves or to their opponents, in general:

  • They should not raise their leg higher than their waist to kick a ball;
  • They should not lower their head below their waist to “head” a ball*; and,
  • If they find themselves down on the ground, they should forget about the ball and get up immediately. (Most important in the instructional age group.)

These are the basic tenets behind the concept of “dangerous play,” if an opponent is nearby, and may result in a penalty being called by the referee.

In the instructional age group, players should be taught that if another child is down on the ground next to the ball, they should stop kicking and give the child an opportunity to get up. Coaches, upon seeing a condition where a player is not able to get up, must stop play immediately and intervene.  Introduction of the word “Freeze” to stop play is particularly helpful in this regard.

In addition, players should be taught not to try to take a ball away from an opponent by sliding. Although certain forms of sliding are ultimately legal, it should not be allowed at this age. In other words, players in the instructional program are to be taught to “stay on their feet.”

Also see: Laws of the Game

* No heading is to be done in this age group.

© Copyright, John C. Harves