In every group, there are the "insiders.' If you're one of them, you can often tell the difference pretty quickly. If you can't tell the newbies from the insiders, chances are you're one of the newbies. There is nothing wrong with being a newbie, of course. We've all worn that title at some point. But today I'm going to help you advance from the rookie ranks, help you understand some of the more subtle things worth knowing about the game, and at least make it seem like you've been around the game a little longer than the time it took you to walk from your car to the sidelines.
The "Offsides" Foul is Actually the "Offside" Foul
I didn't figure this one out until I started hanging out around referees. I had coached for years calling this the "Offsides" foul. In fact, although I corrected the title and show notes to reflect the proper name for this foul, I recorded episode #18 titled "The Offside Rule Explained" calling this foul by its wrong name. I could fix the text, but I couldn't fix what I said when I recorded the show. If you listen carefully, you'll hear my blunder. This foul is discussed in more detail as Law #11 of the 17 laws of soccer described in the FIFA rules. It's arguably the most complicated law of the game & one of the hardest to spot correctly. Newbies, wanna-bees, and know-it-alls can often be heard yelling at a ref for calling this foul incorrectly. This is something true soccer insiders might find amusing if it wasn't so ignorant and disruptive. Most people yelling at the ref about this call are not even in a position to see the call - even if they knew how to call it. This call is full of nuances like:
an offside foul is made at the time when the ball is kicked
hands and arms don't count
a player can be in an offside position and not draw an offside foul
a player can draw an offside foul without ever touching the ball
some judgment on the part of the referee is both allowed and encouraged
True soccer insiders know to leave opinions about this particular foul to the judgment of the referee team. There have been many times as a coach where I thought I saw an offside (or missed an offside) foul, but I wasn't in a position to see it properly. I keep my mouth shut - and I know the rules. My alternative is to don the yellow uniform and run the field as an assistant ref. Don't get caught yelling about this one. It's a sure sign you haven't been around long enough to know how to evaluate the game.
There Are Many Different Size Soccer Balls
I do a show-and-tell every single season for parents in the sidelines and this one never fails to get some "Oh wow" comments. True soccer insiders know that soccer balls are numbered. The most common sizes of soccer balls we see on a youth pitch are sizes 3, 4, and 5. Like everything in the youth game, balls are sized to be appropriate for the size of the players using them. In our academy, which serves kids from 3 years old to 8 years old, we use a #3 ball. Players jump up to a #4 ball when they turn 9 and continue to play with that until they are 13. Once they turn 13, they move up to a #5 ball. Then, when players strive to get really good, they will sometimes seek out smaller balls and go back to working with a #3, a #1, or even a tennis ball to practice juggling with. The smaller surface requires more precision for older players. They know that when they work with a smaller ball, they will have more control when they play with a #5 ball in a match. I go into much more detail about the different ball sizes in Episode #43 titled "Different Soccer Ball Sizes." I even include photos for your viewing pleasure in the show notes. And I throw in some information for you about the Futsal ball - often confused by people who are not true soccer insiders as a #4 soccer ball. Find the ball that's right for the age of your player and don't be one of those newbies who show up with a #5 ball for their 4-year-old's first practice.
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