At first glance, the game of soccer may seem a bit confusing. In actuality, soccer is a very simple free-flowing game of two teams on a rectangular field, with boundaries, trying to manuever a ball into the goal (over the line between the posts and below the crossbar) of their opponents. When one team has posession of the ball the object is to keep it by dribbling or passing it to a teammate (attacking) until they can score a goal. When a team loses posession of the ball they are attempting to get the ball back (defending) and to keep their opponents from scoring. Defending and attacking can happen anywhere on the playing field by players in all positions. This is all performed predominantly with your feet but you can use any part of the body except the hands and arms. This primary rule (see laws below) does not apply to the position of goalkeeper, one on each team, who may use their hands and arms in a designated area (see fields below). The team that has scored more goals at the end of a predetermined duration of time is the winner.
As a volunteer soccer coach you can assure your kids a great time by letting them pick two teams, throwing the ball out and just enough supervision to promote a safe environment. The only other requirement would be to add a few words of encouragement!
Soccer is played in accordance with a set of rules known as the Laws of the Game [PDF]. There are 17 laws to the game of soccer. These laws apply to all age groups, however, in accordance with USYSA and state and local associations (NTSSA and CYSA respectively) the laws are modified for different age groups (see CYSA Laws). Some of the laws that are modified would be field dimensions and markings, ball sizes, duration of the game, number of players, size of goal, substitutions and distance from the ball on freekicks and corners. You can get the variances of each age group by viewing the CYSA's Pocket Ref [PDF] or visiting CYSA Laws. The following is a list of the 17 Laws of the Game.
Match numbers of field descriptions to the diagram below. These line markings apply to U9 and above. The line markings are modified for age groups U8 and below. The dimensions of these markings will vary depending on the age group. Review CYSA Laws for modifications.
Player positions can be divided into four rows or categories. First, there is the goalkeeper. Directly in front of him/her, we have the fullbacks (defenders), followed by the halfbacks (midfielders) and then the forwards (strikers, wingers). Each position is designated to perform a specific task in a specific area of the playing field. Although players perform these tasks in specific areas of the field they are not limited or restricted to these areas. The important thing to remember is that when your team has the ball everyone attacks and when you team doesn't have the ball everyone is defending. Your team's first line of attack could be a goalkeeper and your first line of defense could be a forward.
The amount of players in each one of these rows or categories is called the "system of play" or formation. For example, 4 defenders (fullbacks), 3 midfielders (halfbacks) and 3 forwards would be a 4-3-3 system of play or formation when playing with 11 players (U11 and above). It is important to note that systems of play should be introduced but should not be given high priority with U5-U10 at the expense of basic and fundamental technical skills of passing, receiving, dribbling, heading and shooting.