Soccer seems like a straightforward game, and on the surface it is -- after all it's pretty easy to understand the idea of putting the ball into the net. But soccer's 17 laws are actually very detailed and can be complicated. When dealing with kids, keep it simple. Teach them the basic rules and let them learn the rest as they go along.
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Unlike most sports, soccer restricts the use of your hands. Kids should understand that the only player allowed to use his hands or arms is the goalkeeper. If any other player touches the ball with his hands it's called a hand ball and the other team will get a free kick -- or a penalty kick if it happens in the penalty area in front of the net. Even the keeper can only use his hands in certain areas; he can only use his hands in the penalty area -- anywhere else he must follow the same rules as all other players.
The most exciting moment for kids -- as with adults -- is scoring. Kids need to understand how a goal is scored. A goal only counts when the entire ball passes over the goal line, between the goal posts and under the crossbar. If a ball stops on the goal line, it does not count as a goal. It also doesn't count as a goal if it bounces off the goal post without crossing the line.
Starting and Stopping
Each half starts with a kickoff at center field -- a kickoff also starts play after a goal. If you kick the ball out over the sidelines then the opposing team gets a throw in. If you kick it over the other team's goal line, but not in the net, they receive a goal kick from in front of the net. If you kick it out over your own goal line, the other team will receive a corner kick, taken from the corner nearest to where the ball exited. If the referee calls a foul on you, like a hand ball or playing dangerously, then the other team gets a free kick.
Who's In Charge
Kids need to understand that on the field the referee is in charge and has the final say -- not coaches or parents. Kids should also know that the assistant referees, who follow play from the sidelines, must also be respected and that they are there to help the referee. Parents and coaches should set a good example by respecting the decision of the referees, even if they do not agree with a call.