My daughter is going to play AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) soccer this fall. She's in what they call the "U6" group, and her team consists of 5 players. At her age, they play 3 kids on the field at a time, and each player is supposed to be in the game two-thirds of the time. She played soccer last spring with AYSO, but it was more of a practice-type game than a real game, but even so, she seemed to really enjoy it and looks forward to having "real" games this year.
Since it is a non-profit organization, each team must come up with a "team mom" to organize snacks for the kids (it could be a "team dad", I guess, but I've never seen one), two referees, and a few other volunteers to help patrol the fields looking for misconduct and to ensure the safety of the children.
I volunteered to be one of the two referees, and needed to attend a few nights of training. I completed the second night last night and I did learn a lot. I'm fairly familiar with soccer, having played it as a youth myself (badly), and had stepped up to referee last year for my son, even though I had not done any training. Having gone through the training now, I realize that there really should be a trained referee on the field all the time for the safety of the kids and to keep the flow of the game going.
A few things I learned that I didn't know before:
-- When the ball goes out of play by leaving the field, it is only out of play if the entire ball has crossed the outermost edge of the field's line. This means that the players can continue to play even if the ball literally rolls straight down the field line. This also means that the ball continues in play even if the player kicking the ball has stepped outside of the line.
-- Conversely, when the ball is being thrown back in, the player must have both feet on the ground anywhere on or behind the line at the edge of the field. This means that they can technically have most of their feet on the field (inside the line) when throwing in the ball.
-- A player kicking the ball on a goal kick can do so with the ball placed anywhere in the goal area, but the ball must be stationary when the ball is kicked.
-- It is recommended that the referee only touch the ball to check it out pre-game, and to secure it at half time and after the game -- all other times the players themselves should retrieve the ball when it goes out of bounds, etc.
-- Unlike in other American sports, minor infractions and fouls can be forgiven (i.e. need not be called by the referee) if nobody was injured and if the offender does not receive an advantage in play by the action. However, even the threat of a foul is considered a foul. For me, at the age group I'm refereeing, we won't be giving "cards" to the kids for fowls, but just will stop play and either give a free (indirect) kick or drop-ball.
-- At the age group I'll be refereeing, one can not make a goal off any free kick (including kickoffs at the beginning of the game, at half-time, after a goal; or penalty kicks) or throw-in without the ball first touching another player before going into the goal.
-- The players can proceed with throw-ins and kick-offs (including penalty kicks) immediately without interference from the referee of any sort, but may stop the game and request that the referee ensure the proper distance is between the one kicking or throwing the ball and the other players.
-- Between the start of the game and half-time, and between half-time and the end of the game, the clock never stops. Breaks mid-half for substitutions, water breaks, and injuries are all on the clock!
I learned a lot. Who knew there were so many rules? And these are just the ones that I didn't really know before.
At the end of the training, I took a test and of about 30 questions, I missed 4. As it turns out, I did the worst of the entire group! In all my life, I can't recall ever getting the worst score on any test! It was such an embarrassment (but I played it cool). I even did worse than the guy who couldn't speak English!
Anyway, I did pass, though. They gave me a new whistle and cheesy gray T-shirt that says "Referee" on the front and "It's for the kids" on the back. Now I'm well-educated, pumped, and ready to go! And I'll probably forget everything before the first game in a few weeks ...