How to Play Soccer

Two Parts:Essential SkillsKnowing the Rules of the Game

Soccer, also known as football or fútbol everywhere besides the United States of America, Canada and Australia, is a fun, competitive game. It is the most-played sport in the world, with over 200 million players in about 200 countries. Now, it is referred to as "the beautiful game" because of its dazzling degrees of technical skill, team play, and individual contribution. If you're serious about playing soccer, know that you're going to have to train harder, longer, and faster than your opponents, and always have a ball on hand. (Maybe you'll sleep with a ball instead of a pillow.) So what are you waiting for? Read this article and you will learn how to play this wonderful sport.

Part 1
Essential Skills

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    Learn how to dribble. Dribbling is controlling the ball while running. If you want to keep the ball in your team's possession, you're going to need to dribble well. Dribbling is all about touching the ball strong enough to carry it forward, but light enough so that it stays by your side — and away from opponents.
    • You can dribble with the inside of your shoe, above the toe (with the foot pointed down toward the ground), and even with the outside of the shoe. Most coaches would tell players to dribble with their foot pointed down and turned in with the ball touching your pinky toe. The safest way to dribble for beginners is probably with the inside of your shoe, but in different situations, you'll have to use different parts of the shoe.
    • Learn to dribble at different speeds. When you're running down the sideline and you've beaten your man, your dribbling will look a lot different from when you're taking on a defender head on.
      • When you're dribbling slower, you usually keep the ball close to your side at all times. This way a defender has to make a move to take the ball away.
      • When you're dribbling faster, you can sometimes kick the ball further away and run to the ball. This is usually if you've already beaten your enemy. You do this because most players can run quicker off the ball than they can dribbling it.
      • You should touch the ball about once every step you take to keep it under control.
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    Learn how to pass. Passing is all about putting the ball exactly where you want it. In order to pass a soccer ball, kick the ball using the inside of your foot. This will give you less power but more accuracy. Once you master the basic pass, you can then try to slice and hook the ball in order to pass it to one of your teammates.
    • Pay attention to where your planter foot is placed. Your planter foot should be right next to the ball. While the planter foot is near the ball, point the foot in the direction you would like the ball to go to.
    • Pass with your toes pointed upward and your heel on the ground.
    • Anticipate where a player is going to be. Because you're often going to be passing on the fly, kicking the ball to an open space where you want your teammate to be is essential. If your teammate is running, always kick the ball ahead of them so that they can run to the ball.
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    Know how to shoot. If you're really close to the goal and all you need is accuracy, you can shoot using the sweet spot of the inside of your shoe, like a pass, but usually, you're going to be farther away and will need power as well as accuracy,of course.
    • Set your planter foot and aim the toe of the planter foot to where you want the shot to travel and always have a slight look at the target before you shoot.
    • You don't have to get much of a running start, but you do want to bring your foot back, bending it as you do in order to get more power.
    • Hit the ball on the middle laces of your shoe, with your foot pointed down at the ground. Keep your foot pointed down at the ground as you follow through.
    • Use your hips to swing through the ball. Bring your foot across your body if necessary to generate even more power. This should cause both feet to lift from the ground.
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    Think about moving off the ball. Some estimates say that professional soccer players run 6 to 8 miles (9.7 to 12.9 km) during a 90 minute game.[1] That's a lot of running. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that a lot of the running you'll be doing is when you don't have the ball. Learn how to get into open space, how to run to where to your teammate expects or wants you to be, and how to run past a defender who's guarding you.
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    Learn how to defend. Defending the goal is an underrated achievement. It can be extremely difficult staying on your man or getting the ball away from your man. There are three basic things that you need to remember when guarding a player in soccer:
    • Don't be fooled by feints, tricks, or jukes: keep your eye on the ball. A good soccer player will try to juke or feint with their body in order to get past you. They're hoping that what they do with their body will distract you from what they're going to do with the ball. Don't let this happen. Keep your eyes on the ball at all times, not on the player.
    • Stay in between the ball and the goal. In other words, don't let the ball get behind you. This is harder than it sounds. It's a delicate balance keeping enough pressure on the ball and giving the person who's attacking enough space so that they don't get behind you.
    • Learn to anticipate the dribble. Right after an attacker hits the ball on the dribble — that's the time when try to hit the ball away. This is called anticipating the dribble, and it's essential for knocking the ball from an attacking player. Just be sure not to lunge and miss; you're vulnerable when you do this!
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    Get comfortable heading the ball. Try hitting the ball with your head right where your hair meets your forehead. Do not use the top of your head! When getting ready to head the ball, don't lift your head back; move your upper torso back instead. This will give you more power and won't strain your neck as much. You have to hit the ball, not let the ball hit you.
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    Learn how to juggle. Juggling is very hard to master but an important part of the game. Truth be told, you won't need to juggle very often in a game, but knowing how to juggle does several things:
    • It helps you control a ball that's coming at you from the air. Not all passes are on the ground. The ones that aren't will need to be intercepted and controlled by some form of juggling.
    • Juggling helps improve your touch on the ball. If you know how to juggle your touch on the ball becomes a lot more sensitive. Your first touch on the ball is extremely important in soccer.
    • Juggling will help you use both feet better. Learning how to juggle is an exercise is using your non-dominant foot better. The best soccer players in the world can use both feet as dominant feet.
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    Learn how to use your non-dominant foot. It's really important to be able to dribble, pass, and shoot the ball with your non-dominant foot. Good defenders will take away your dominant foot and force you to play with your non-dominant foot. If you can't use your non-dominant foot, you'll be playing with a handicap.
    • Practice only using your non-dominant foot during practice or when you shoot or juggle by yourself. Accustoming your body to the muscle memory is an important part of being fluent in your non-dominant foot.
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    Practice taking corner kicks and free kicks. You want to be able to send corner kicks right in the middle of the penalty area, usually up in the air so that a teammate can head the ball in. Free kicks can either be taken quickly and simply passes to a nearby teammate, or you can organize a "set play" where you kick the ball in a certain area while your teammates execute a play.
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    Be original and spontaneous with your playing style. Try to develop your own playing style, one that suits you. Are you a tricky player who relies on juking out other players? Are you fast enough to beat everyone with sheer speed? Are you great at using your body and power to blast goals? Are you expert at keeping opponents from getting off shots? Find out what kind of player you are, set goals for yourself on how you can become a more rounded player, and remember to have fun. Soccer isn't the most popular sport in the world for no reason.

Part 2
Knowing the Rules of the Game

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    Understand the object of the game. The object of the game is to score more goals than the opponent scores. A goal is scored when any part of the ball passes the goal line. Goalies in their own penalty area are the only players on the pitch who can use their arms. All other players may use any part of their bodies except their hands.
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    Know the positions of soccer. There are 11 total players on the pitch to start the game. Although the positions can be rearranged however the coach sees fit, there is usually one goalie, four defenders, four midfielders, and two strikers.
    • Goalie: this person protects the net and is the only one on the field who can use their hands in the penalty area. The goalie has to be flexible, quick to anticipate, and good at communication.
    • Defenders. Defenders usually stay behind the half-way line in an effort to help prevent goal from being scored against them. They make good outlet passes and are usually bigger physically than other players.
    • Midfielders. Midfielders do the most running, as they play a combination of defense and offense They usually orchestrate the attack. They're exceptionally good at holding onto the ball and passing.
    • Forwards/strikers. These are the ones who get the most cracks at shooting the ball. They need to be quick, agile, and able to shoot a stunning shot. They also need to be excellent headers.
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    Know that kickoff starts the game and the beginning of the second half. One team starts the game by kicking off. The opposite team gets to kick off after halftime. At the time of kickoff, each team's players need to be entirely on their half of play. Once the whistle has blown and the ball is kicked, the players can move freely into both halves of play, provided they are not offside.
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    Understand offside. Offside is one of the more crucial rules in soccer, and it's designed to keep soccer players from cherry-picking, or bunching a lot of their players near the opponent's goal at all times.
    • A player is offside when s/he is:
      • Ahead of the ball, as well as
      • In the opponent's half, as well as
      • Behind the last defender when the ball is passed to him by one of his teammates
    • Offsides is negated on:
      • Throw-ins
      • Corner kicks
      • Goal kicks
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    Understand throw-ins. Throw-ins happen when the ball fully travels outside the area of play. Possession goes to the team who wasn't the last to touch it. This team gets to throw the ball in from the place where it went out of bounds.
    • A player throwing can get a running start, but must generally stop near the area where the ball went out of bounds.
    • A player must bring the ball up with both hands behind his or her head and release the ball over his head with both hands.
    • A player cannot lift his or her feet off the ground while they are throwing the ball. Both feet must stay on the ground.
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    Know the grounds for a yellow card. A referee issues a yellow card as a warning to a player. Two yellow cards result in a red card, after which that player must leave the game permanently. Reasons for yellow cards include:
    • Dangerous play. High kicking near a player’s head, for example.
    • Illegal obstruction. This happens when a player intentionally takes a position between and an opponent when that player isn't within playing distance of the ball.
    • Charging the goalkeeper in the goal area.
    • Goalkeeper playing the ball with his hands when the ball is kicked by a teammate.
    • Goalkeeper Infringements. Unsafe play such as charging the goalie.
    • Goalkeeper taking more than four steps while controlling the ball.
    • Intentionally wasting time at the end of a game.
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    Know the grounds for a red card. A red card can be given out before a yellow card if especially dangerous play is involved, although a red card usually results from two yellow cards. Reasons for red cards include:
    • Kicking a player intentionally.
    • Jumping up at a player and making contact.
    • Charging a player in a rough way, especially if hands are involved.
    • Charging a player from behind.
    • Tripping a player.
    • Hitting, pushing, holding, or spitting at a player.
    • Handling the ball by a non-goalie.
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    Know the difference between a direct free kick and an indirect free kick. A direct free kick is when you can kick the ball directly into the goal for a score without the ball touching another teammate first. An indirect free kick must be touched by another teammate before counting as a score.
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    Know that a foul inside the penalty box results in a penalty kick. A penalty kick happens when a defender fouls an opponent in his or her own penalty box. All other players except the goalie and the player taking the penalty kick line up outside the penalty area. The goalie must stand on the goal line and cannot move off of it before the ball is struck. The ball is placed on a designated area called the penalty spot. After the ball is hit, it is live, meaning that if it ricochets off the goalie or post, it can be played by either team.
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    Know the difference between a corner kick and a goal kick. If the ball goes over the goal line (but not into the goal) and was last touched by the defending team, the ball goes to the closest goal line corner and becomes a corner kick, with possession going to the attacking team. If the ball goes over the goal line (but not into the goal) and was last touched by the attacking team, the ball goes to the edge of the 6-yard box and becomes a goal kick, with possession going to the defending team. The goalie usually takes a goal kick.


  • Be strong inside and out because the ball might hit your chest at some point or any other part of your body. So build up and become fitter and stronger. Also don't doubt yourself inside -- be strong inside too because that is one of the most important things in football. Self-Confidence and determination are key tips.
  • When defending, position yourself between the ball and the goal. Making a lane to the outside, not letting the player come in front of the goal; this also helps the other players on you team come back to help defend.
  • Practice before games. You can't be a couch potato and then expect to suddenly be a professional soccer player!
  • When you shoot at the goalkeeper, fake that you will kick the ball. The goalie will most likely move when faked. When you kick, aim in one of the corners. You are likely to score a goal.
  • Do drills slowly, then increasingly faster to fine tune your skills.
  • Improve your stamina so you will still be okay when someone not as fit is very tired and you try to outrun them.
  • Try learning many tricks, and practice them very often so that you can easily pass defenders and run in for the goal. Most players only have two or three tricks they're really good at.
  • Learn the plays and find out what your strengths and weaknesses are.
  • Ask your friends who have played (or play) soccer to teach you.
  • Be fit. Running around for an hour to an hour and a half can drain a lot of energy.
  • Remember, if a ball is coming in low and you're a goalkeeper, kneel. It stops the ball going through your legs.
  • When shooting the ball, you can lean back as you drive up to kick it - this can make a long shot, depending where you kick the ball.
  • Make a reasonable balance between dribbling and passing.
  • Do not jump on two feet at a time or it will be a free kick.
  • Do not touch the ball with your hands.


  • Don't argue with the referee, because you could get thrown out of the game.
  • If you get dizzy, tell the coach. Never push yourself so far that you can't stand up straight.
  • If there is a call you don't like, don't fight. The referee can't change it, so there is no use in fighting.
  • This article doesn't contain all of the rules, so look them up if you are really interested.

Things You'll Need

  • Soccer ball
  • Soccer cleats (US) or football boots (UK) (preferably firm ground studs)
  • Shin guards/pads
  • Soccer socks (long)
  • Shorts or sweatpants - something easy to run in
  • Water bottle with water
  • Area with lots of space, away from any fragile things

People Who Can Help

  • Houston- Samuel Zahm, forward, semi-pro player who on his spare time coaches
  • New York City- David Gatson, defender, used to be a MLS player who now coaches
  • Phoenix- Jennifer Kyle, forward, used to be one of the best in the world

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Categories: Featured Articles | Soccer | Soccer Ball Tricks