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A Parents' Guide to Club Soccer


USC's Fair Play stance on Referee, Coach, Player and/or Staff verbal abuse:

1. First offense: The offender will receive a phone call from the Director of Coaching as a warning with a request to correct the behavior in the future.  The offender will be asked to personally apologize to the individual the abuse was directed towards. 

2. Second offense: The family will be asked to leave the club.  

3. USC reserves the right to excuse any family after the first offense if deemed necessary by the Directors. 

There are no exceptions to this policy.  USC will not tolerate verbal abuse or foul language from parents or players towards officials, players, coaches, opposing team's players or coaches, or USC staff members.  If you can't control your emotions, please do not attend the games. 

It's not out of the ordinary to see parents get intense during youth sports, but did you realize that sideline coaching and directing  anything other than encouragement at your player during the game can likely cause confusion and undo stress for your player and sometimes even their teammates?  

USC expects parents and spectators to leave the coaching and officiating to the professionals.  Sidelines should be for cheering and encouragement.  There are also many resources available for parents and spectators to better understand the rules of the game.   We have consolidated some of the most helpful resources to help educate our families.   We ask that you remind yourself every season that youth sports are FUN and your child wants to play the game to have FUN with his/her friends first and foremost! 


When playing in a game, youth soccer players’ minds are focused on making split-second decisions as they maneuver around and survey the field.

Every once in a while, however, a player’s attention may be drawn to his or her hyper parent yelling instructions or making a scene from the sideline. While parents’ actions may simply be the result of wanting the best for their child, their behavior can have a negative effect on their young athlete’s enjoyment of the game.

US Youth Soccer spoke to Dave Carton, the director of coaching for Discoveries SC in Rock Hill, S.C., to hear his opinion on some areas in which many parents could improve their sideline etiquette. Carton is no stranger to addressing adults on how to act while at games, and a letter he sent to parents of his club that cited their improper behavior was featured on the US Youth Soccer Coaches Blog.

Here are six things to keep in mind when attending your child's game...

1. Avoid ‘coaching’ from the sideline while watching your child’s game
A common problem in youth soccer is the impulse parents have to shout instructions to their young player from the sideline. It’s especially difficult for a child because he or she has a tendency to refer to what a parent says, which often conflicts with the instruction from the coach. Carton said parents should imagine being in a room and having multiple people yelling instructions at them in order to see the confusion it could cause a child.

“Another thing about yelling instructions is that the tone a parent yells with is typically a lot more aggressive than the coach,” Carton said. “The coach is instructing with a teaching mentality. ‘This is what we have to do to improve. This is part of the process to get better and improve your level of play.’ 

“The instructions that the parents are yelling have an immediacy to it. They want it done now because they want the gratification of the instant result. It’s conflicting with what the coach is trying to do.”

2. Do not criticize the referee 
Carton said this is an epidemic, and spectators should realize that referees are people and will make mistakes — even those officiating at the highest levels of play. When parents go after a referee for what they perceive as a mistake, it begins to make the game about the adults rather than the kids.

“A referee is ideally going to make an objective decision on what he or she sees. A parent is going to interpret that same situation through the prism of the team that their child plays on,” Carton said. “If it’s a decision that goes against their team, they’re automatically going to have a subjective view on it.

“The problem comes when there is an aggression to how the parents react to that. The bigger problem is when the child sees that, the child thinks it’s accepted. Parents need to remember they always need to be a model for their child.”

3. Focus on the benefits of the game rather than the score
Far too often parents worry about the numbers formed by illuminated lights on a scoreboard rather than the experience their child has while playing youth sports. Carton said parents are naturally from an older generation in which there was a larger focus on the result of a game. While it’s natural for everyone to want to win, he said parents need to keep focus on the larger picture.

“It’s natural instinct to want to win. The key thing is to keep things in perspective,” Carton said. “If we didn’t win, how can we go into the next game to improve on what we did wrong? Coaches talk about the development process, and losing is part of that process. If your team always wins, their mentality won’t be able to handle setbacks. It’s a big part of a child’s development.”

He went on to talk about a hypothetical 1-0 loss. 

“Very few of the parents are asking their child if they had fun today. The child will take the parent’s reaction to the result of the game as the norm. They’ll then relate their experience to the result of the game, which is really counterproductive.  

4. Think when interacting with opposing fans
“This is one that should be common sense. Grown adults should be able to go and enjoy their child’s experience without having any confrontation,” Carton said. “We get that at our club, too. We always say, ‘Don’t forget, you’re not just representing the club, you’re representing your child. The way you’re acting right now — if you could see yourself through the eyes of your child, what would you think of yourself? Why are you making a public spectacle over a U-11 girl’s soccer game? Are you proud of what you’re doing right now? Would you allow your child to act like this?’”

5. Don’t stress out over the game
Do you find yourself pacing up and down the sideline — anxiously following the action as it unfolds on the field? Stop it. Breathe.

“Just calm down. Enjoy it. Stop being so attached to it. It’s not your game,” Carton said. “Don’t base your enjoyment or happiness on what is going on out there. 

“Look at your child. Is he having fun? Is he active? Is he enjoying the social nature of the game? Is he getting as much out of this experience as he can? Don’t worry about the rest of it. Some parents just give themselves aneurysms pacing up and down the line. Keep perspective. There are more important things.”

6. Save issues with the coach for the next day
Maybe you don’t agree with how much your child played in a game or another decision the coach made during the match. It’s important to take some time to think about it rather than confronting the coach in front of your child and the team.  **USC implements the 24-hour rule for any situation that still warrants speaking with your child's coach.  Please remember to wait 24-hours before contacting the coach with a concern.**

“Directly after the game, the parents should not approach the coach. It’s an emotionally charged conversation and very little good can come from that,” Carton said. “At that time, there’s very little a coach can say that will make the parent feel any better. Go home. Talk to your family. Sleep on it. Get in touch the next day, whether it be by phone, email, or even going for a cup of coffee with the coach and asking for feedback. 

“If the coach communicates well enough, the expectation should be there and the parent should understand the situation. If that’s not the case, the parent is totally in his or her right to bridge that communication gap.”


My athlete didn't play as much as some others during a game?

USC coaches work hard to ensure rostered players are getting fair playing time, however, in some instances of more weighted games or tournaments, the coach has the authority to substitute players (or not sub) at their own discretion.  It could happen.  Be prepared. 

Does this mean your player may not play as much as another player in certain situations?  

Does that automatically mean your player has done something wrong? 
It means the lineup on the field is effective and changing it may shift the momentum in a different direction.   Soccer is a team sport and while all players on the roster contribute to that team in some special way, there are certain instances where individual players are more effective or having an outstanding day against an opponent.  Support players who come off the bench play as big a role as the starters.  Everyone on the roster serves a purpose for the success of the team.   

Offside for Dummies

Offside is probably the most misunderstood rule of soccer.  

It’s not an offense in itself to be offside.  A player is only penalized for being offside if he is deemed to be involved in active play.

So a player can only be called offside if he/she is:

  • In the opposition’s half.

  • Interfering with play (that is, he’s part of the attacking move).

  • Interfering with an opponent (that is, he’s preventing the opponent from defending against the attacking move).

  • Gaining any advantage by being in that position.


  • on a goal kick
  • on a throw in
  • on a corner kick


Handball for Dummies

Handball!  That was a handball!  That ref didn't call that handball!  

Are you sure?  Do you know what actually constitutes a handball?  

Definition. A handball occurs if any player, other than the team's goalkeeper within his own penalty area, deliberately handles the ball when in play. A ball can be handled with any part of the arm, from the tips of a player's fingers right up to the shoulder. (Resource: FIFA Soccer Rules for Handball)

Law 12, “Fouls and Misconduct,” of the IFAB Laws of the Game, states that:
“A direct free kick is awarded [to the opposing team] if a player… handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area).“

“Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with the hand or arm.  The following must be considered:

  • the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)
  • the distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)
  • the position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an offense

There are two significant points concerning application of the handling rule during the normal run of play.  The first has to do with the parts of the body which contact the ball and the second has to do with the judgment of the Referee.

The parts of the body subject to the handling rule are both the hands and the arms, extending from the tips of the fingers to the articulation of the shoulder.  The fact that the ball may contact the hands or the arms during the course of the game is not sufficient, in and of itself, for a penalty to be called.  In order for a violation to have occurred, the Referee (or Assistant Referee) must have seen the contact and must have judged that the contact was intentional (deliberate).

In order to determine that the contact with the ball was intentional, the Referee uses two general criteria:

  1. If the player moved his hand or arm to the ball; or,
  2. If the player had sufficient reaction time to move his hand or arm out of the way of the flight of the ball and failed to do so.

If, in the opinion of the Referee, either of these two acts occurred, “handling” should be called.  If the contact was determined to have been unintentional, then play is allowed to continue, no matter how or where the ball was contacted and no matter what happens next to the path of the ball.

Difficulty with the application of the handling rule mostly occurs at the youth level where few hand balls are truly intentional.  However, players must learn to keep their hands and arms out of situations where they could inappropriately influence play.  In order to do so, coaches must teach young field players to keep their hands near their sides when the ball is bouncing around and to overcome the desire brought on by American sports such as football, basketball and baseball, to try to catch the ball.  In addition, coaches must teach young players to overcome the natural tendency to protect the body from a fast moving ball, particularly the face, by blocking it with their hands.  Instead, they may first duck or turn the body, but as they get older they must learn to aggressively strike, deflect, or absorb the pace of, the ball.