A Parent's Guide To AYSO
ABC's Of AYSO
Download A Parent's Guide To AYSO from AYSO.org.
AYSO And Its Mission
The American Youth Soccer Organization develops and delivers quality youth soccer programs which promote a fun, family environment based on our six philosophies:
- Everyone Plays® - Our goal is for kids to play soccer - so we mandate that every player on every team must play at least half of every game.
- Balanced Teams - We require every region at the start of each season to set up teams as evenly balanced as possible. It's more fun when teams are of equal ability.
- Positive Coaching - This builds a positive team spirit. We train and encourage our coaches to make the extra effort to understand and offer positive help to our players, rather than negative criticism.
- Open Registration - Our programs are open to all children ages 4 - 18 who want to register and play soccer. Interest and enthusiasm are the only requirements for playing.
- Good Sportsmanship - We create a positive environment based on mutual respect, rather than a win-at-all-costs attitude. All of our programs are designed to instill good sportsmanship in every facet of AYSO.
- Player Development - We believe that all players should be able to develop their soccer skills and knowledge to the best of their abilities, both individually and as members of a team, in order to maximize their enjoyment of the game.
Everyone Helps Out
AYSO is a volunteer organization with more than 250,000 parents and friends, many of them working as coaches, referees and administrators. It's not unusual to find two, three or more children in the same family playing AYSO soccer - while Dad serves as referee and Mom as coach. It can be a total family experience! The Growth of AYSO
AYSO was founded in 1964 in Torrance, Calif. with about 125 players. Today that number has grown to more than 625,000 nationwide.
Why AYSO Works
AYSO works because our volunteers work. The volunteers work because they believe in the AYSO philosophies. Our phenomenal growth underscores AYSO's commitment to a healthy competitive atmosphere for youth soccer players, combined with dedication toward the development of responsible individuals.What Makes AYSO Tick. AYSO was founded on community involvement. Volunteer staff members are encouraged to organize in ways best suited to their needs. The foundation of AYSO is the "Region", or basic community program. Each Region is headed by a Regional Commissioner who, with the help of a regional board, conducts business within the framework of AYSO's philosophies, Rules and Regulations and Bylaws. Depending on its stage of development, a Region may have as few as 200 players or as many as 5,000, grouped into boys and girls divisions based on age.
Several bordering regions compose an "Area". Each Area is headed by an Area Director who is responsible for performance and growth of the Area.
Area Directors report to Section Directors, who are responsible for the general welfare and administration of a "Section." A Section may cover a portion of a state, an entire state, or several states.
A National Board of Directors governs the overall AYSO organization. Regional Commissioners, Area and Section Directors, along with the National Board Members, serve as executive members with voting rights.
The staff at AYSO's national headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif. works closely with these volunteer executive members and interfaces directly with each Region. The headquarters, called the National Support and Training Center or NSTC, provides many services: computerized registration; publications; liability and accident insurance; training for coaches, referees and administrators, and more.
Safe Haven® is a program designed to address a growing need for child and volunteer protection.
There are four elements in the Safe Haven® intervention cycle. These are intended to stop child abuse and its agents before they get into the program
- Create Policies
- Screen Volunteers
- Train Volunteers
- Promote Education and Awareness
Volunteer Protection Act of 1997
This law grants immunity form certain types of prosecution for volunteers who meet its requirements. In order to receive full protection under the law, AYSO volunteers need three things.
- They must be properly trained and certified.
- TThey must be performing duties as laid out in a position description.
- TThey must act within the scope of AYSO's Policies, Procedures, and Guidelines.
AYSO's goal is to provide certification training for all its volunteers. Certification offers the hope that every AYSO child will be treated with understanding, compassion, and respect.
What's a Region?
Whether you are a veteran AYSO volunteer or you're new at this soccer business, you may be wondering just what is this thing called an AYSO Region and how it works.
Your AYSO Region is one of more than 900 local programs in communities nationwide. Each AYSO Region is the same, yet different.
That means AYSO Bylaws and Rules and Regulations standardize operational procedures and playing rules. But because community needs and characteristics may be different, Regions have flexibility to satisfy their unique needs.
Your Region is identified by its own number. It is managed by parents just like yourself. In fact, you may be one of those dedicated volunteers working to ensure the program is run effectively and AYSO philosophies are upheld.
Your Regional Commissioner and Regional Board of Directors will usually meet once a month during the season and perhaps more often for pre-season planning. You are welcome to attend any of these meetings.
Many Regions give out a Regional Handbook at registration, with their policies fully defined. The Handbook may cover everything from rainy-day procedures, practice routines and important telephone numbers to lost-and-found information. Read it and keep it handy.
Get to know your child's soccer coach and other parents. Volunteer your time, skills and energies to make your AYSO Region run well. This way, both your child and you benefit from the AYSO experience.
Here's what you can expect from your Region:
- A fun soccer experience for your child during games and practices.
- Coaches and referees who understand the AYSO philosophies and support them.
- Technical training for coaches and referees.
- Caring volunteers to manage the "business" of the Region.
- A national organization for support and guidance.
- Fiscal responsibility via a financial statement, published yearly.
By The Book - The Game Of Soccer
Soccer is a simple game. It requires a field, a ball, two teams of players and their equipment, and a referee.
Soccer is played by two teams on a field approximately the size of a football field. Smaller fields may be used for younger players.
The game is played in two timed halves of equal length. To advance AYSO's "Everyone Plays" commitment, quarter breaks are made within each half to allow for player substitution. The length of each half is determined by the age of the children playing.
Physical size is not an important factor in becoming a skilled and successful soccer player. Because of the game's pace, every child participates in the action while on the field.
The sport involves several basic skills: passing/shooting, dribbling, and controlling (or trapping) the ball.
These skills can be learned at any age, and a good soccer player works continually to improve them.
Passing is kicking, pushing or heading the ball to a teammate or to a space where a teammate can run to the ball. A player may lightly tap the ball to a teammate several feet away or kick it strongly to move it down the field. The ball may scoot along the ground or may be kicked into the air.
Most players use two types of kicks to pass to a teammate or shoot towards the goal. One is the instep drive which is a powerful kick. The other kick is called a push pass. Performed using the inside of the foot, the push pass is much more accurate than the instep drive, but is less powerful.
Dribbling is transporting the ball under control from one area to another. Soccer players cannot use their hands. Players dribble the ball with their feet, using light taps on the ball to move it along the ground.
Controlling (or trapping) is stopping the ball in flight or on the ground, and then controlling it by either dribbling or passing the ball to teammates. There are many ways to trap a ball: (1) allowing it to hit the chest at an angle that deflects the ball to the ground where it can be controlled; (2) allowing it to hit the thigh or bent knee to deflect the ball to the ground where it can be controlled; or (3) using the foot to stop the ball.
Heading is unique to the game of soccer. When a ball is too high to kick, players "head" the ball to pass to a teammate or score a goal.
The Laws (Rules)
There are 17 of them and they are easy to understand. Their purpose is to make the game fun, safe and fair.
The object of the game is for the players to get the ball into their opponent's goal using any part of their body except hands and arms. Only goalkeepers may use their hands while inside their own penalty area.
Generally, the Laws require that referees stop the game when something has happened which is unfair or unsafe. Important elements of the Law to be familiar with include Ball In and Out of Play, Fouls, Misconduct and Offside.
To start the game or the second half, and after each goal, a kick off is taken from the center circle.
After the ball has completely crossed the side boundary lines - called touch lines - a throw in is awarded against the team that last touched the ball. The throw in is taken from where the ball left the field and must be thrown with two hands from behind and over the head, while both feet are on the ground on or behind the touch line.
Goal KickThe goal kick is taken by the defending team each time the ball crosses the goal line without a goal being scored and was last touched by an attacking player. The ball may be placed anywhere in the goal area and is not considered back in play until it has been kicked out of the penalty area.
Corner KickThis kick is taken by the attacking team each time the ball is kicked by the defense over its own goal line without a goal being scored. The ball is placed within the three-foot arc in the corner of the field (nearest to where the ball went out of play) and kicked into play by the attacking team.
Penalty KickA penalty kick is awarded when a defending player commits one of the 10 penal (major) fouls within his or her own penalty area while the ball is still in play. The penalty kick is taken by a player from the offended team from a spot 12 yards from the goal. All players must remain outside the penalty area, 10 yards from the ball, and behind the penalty kick mark until the kick is taken, except for the kicker and the goalkeeper. The goalkeeper must remain on the goal line until the ball is kicked. Once kicked, the goalkeeper may try to stop the ball from entering the goal. The kicker, after waiting for the referee's signal, may score by kicking the ball directly into the opponent's goal.
There are two kinds of misconduct: (1) when an action results in a caution (yellow card) from the referee, and (2) when an action results in a player being sent off or ejected from the field (red card). A referee may also warn a player to improve his or her conduct (or unsporting behavior) before a caution is issued.
The referee also has the authority to suspend or terminate play because of misconduct or interference on the part of coaches or spectators.
A team has a maximum of 11 players on the field at any one time, although a game can be played with as few as seven players on a team. Regions use short-sided teams in younger age divisions. Players get more "touches" on the ball, learn skills quicker and have more fun using this method.
Each team offers the following positions:
- The Goalkeeper is responsible for guarding his or her team's goal and preventing the other team from scoring.
- The Defender's primary duty is to prevent the opponent from having a good shot at the goal. This player also works to gain possession of the ball and pass it to a teammate for an attack.
- The Midfielder (or halfback) plays a "transitional" game from defense to offense and vice versa. Usually the midfielder is the most active player on the field and key to maintaining team continuity.
- The Forward's primary responsibility is to score, and also assists the midfielder in shifting play from defense to offense.
- It's important to keep in mind that any player on a team may score a goal, regardless of position.
AYSO recommends the use of three game officials--one referee and two assistant referees.
The Referee is the ultimate authority during the game. The referee's chief responsibilities are to make the game as fun, fair and safe for the players as possible. The referee enforces the rules - which, in soccer, are called "Laws" - by calling offenses and determining if goals have been scored.
Assistant referees provide vital assistance to the referee by signaling when the ball has gone out of play and which team gets possession. Assistant referees also assist with substitutions and the general control of the game.
Equipment: What Players Need
Soccer has limited equipment requirements. However, most AYSO teams play in uniforms (shirt shorts and socks) supplied by the local region. Shin guards are mandatory during practice and games. Full-coverage shoes are required, and it is advisable to use shoes designed specifically for soccer. Regions also provide field equipment, such as goals, nets and flags.
The field is divided in two halves. The center circle in the middle of the field is used to start the game, to start the second half and to restart after a goal has been scored.
There is a large rectangular area and a smaller rectangular area found at each end of the field. These are vital areas for both teams, and are where penalty kicks are taken.
The four corners of the field are inscribed with three-foot arcs where corner kicks are taken.
A player is offside if he or she is ahead of the ball at the moment the ball touches or is played by a member of the same team, except if that player.
- Is in his/her own half of the field.
- Has two opponents even with or between him/her and the opponent's goal line. The referee's "moment of judgment" is the instant the ball is played, not when it is received.
- Is the first to receive the ball from a throw-in, corner kick or goal kick.
- Is not involved in active play by interfering with play, interfering with an opponent, or gaining an advantage by being in that position.
Penal (Major) Fouls
There are 10 major fouls that result in a direct free kick (DFK), and from which a goal may be directly scored against the opponents.
The 10 penal fouls are divided into two groups. Six within the first group require that the foul be committed carelessly, recklessly, or with disproportionate force:
- Kicking or attempting to kick an opponent.
- Striking or attempting to strike an opponent.
- Pushing an opponent.
- Charging an opponent.
- Tripping or attempting to trip an opponent.
- Jumping at an opponent.
The other four require only that they be committed:
- When tackling an opponent, making contact with the opponent before the ball.
- Spitting at an opponent
- Holding an opponent
- Handling the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeepers within their own penalty areas).
Non-Penal (Minor) Foul
There are eight minor fouls that result in an indirect free kick (IFK). At least one additional player of either team must touch the ball before a goal can be scored from an IFK.
Playing in a Dangerous Manner Including high kicking near another player's head or trying to play a ball held by a goalkeeper.
Impeding the Progress of an Opponent Getting between an opponent and the ball when not playing the ball.
Preventing the Goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his/her hands.
Goalkeeper Offenses an IFK is also awarded to the opposing team if a goalkeeper, within his/her own penalty area, commits any of the following five offenses.
- Takes more than six seconds while controlling the ball with the hands.
- Touches the ball again with the hands after it has been released from the keeper's possession and has not touched another player.
- Touches the ball with the hands when ball is deliberately kicked to the keeper by a teammate.
- Touches the ball with the hands after receiving it directly from a throw-in taken by a teammate.
Codes Of Conduct - Be A Good Sport
AYSO has always encouraged good sportsmanship in its programs. In fact, "Good Sportsmanship" is one of the six philosophies listed in the AYSO National Bylaws. AYSO strongly recommends that its individual Regions promote good sportsmanship through dynamic programs.
Elements of these programs may vary from Region to Region, but all define the conduct of players, coaches, referees and even parents. They explain the fundamentals of good behavior-which is simply showing courtesy and respect for all involved in the game.
We figure that if players, volunteers and parents understand what is expected of them when it comes to good sportsmanship, that's probably how they will act. AYSO is proud of its many good sports, but understands that good sportsmanship doesn't just happen. It needs to be taught, encouraged and demonstrated.
- Play for the fun of it, not just to please your parents or coach.
- Play by the Laws of the Game.
- Never argue with or complain about referees' calls or decisions.
- Control your temper. Most of all, resist the temptation to retaliate when you feel you have been wronged.
- Concentrate on playing soccer with your best efforts. Work equally hard for your team as for yourself.
- Be a good sport by cheering all good plays, whether it is your team's or your opponent's.
- Treat all players as you would like to be treated.
- Remember that the goals of the game are to have fun, improve skills and feel good. Don't be a showoff or a ball hog.
- Cooperate with your coaches, teammates, opponents and the referees.
- Always remember that the game is for the players. Player safety and fair play come first.
- Study and learn the Laws of the Game and understand the "spirit" of the Laws. Help fellow referees do the same.
- Encourage and enforce the AYSO philosophies of "Everyone Plays," "Positive Coaching" and "Good Sportsmanship."
- Respect other referees' decisions, and do not publicly criticize another official.
- Wear the proper uniform and keep it in good condition.
- Maintain good physical condition so you can keep up with the action.
- Stay calm when confronted with emotional reactions from players, coaches and parents.
- Honor accepted game assignments. In an emergency, find a replacement.
- Support good sportsmanship with a kind word to players, coaches and parents of both teams when deserved.
- Always be fair and impartial, avoiding conflicts of interest. Decisions based on personal bias are dishonest and unacceptable.
As a parent, you have a special role in contributing to the needs and development of these youngsters. Through your encouragement and good example, you can help assure the effectiveness of the AYSO program.
Support Your Child
Support your child by giving encouragement and showing an interest in his or her team. Help your child work toward skill improvement and good sportsmanship in every game. Teach your child that hard work and an honest effort are often more important than victory. Your child will be a winner, even in defeat.
Always Be Positive
Parents are not participants on their child's team. However, they do contribute to the success experienced by their child and the team. Parents serve as role models for their children. Applaud good plays by your child's team and by the opposing team. Support all efforts to remove verbal and physical abuse from youth sporting activities.
Be Enthusiastic and Supportive
Let children set their own goals and play the game for themselves. Be careful not to impose your own standards and goals on your child. Don't put too heavy a burden on your child to win games. Surveys reveal that 72 percent of children would rather play for a losing team than ride the bench for a winner.
Reinforce Positive Behavior
The best way to help a child to achieve goals and reduce the natural fear of failure is through positive reinforcement. No one likes to make a mistake. If your child does make one, remember that he or she is still learning. Encourage your child's efforts and point out the good things your child accomplished.
Let Coaches Coach and Refs Ref
Coaches and referees are usually parents. They volunteer their time to help make your child's youth soccer experience a positive one. They need your support, too. What coaches and referees don't need is your help in coaching from the sidelines. So please refrain from coaching during games and practices. Referees are not the "bad guys." They are volunteers, too, and need your support and encouragement. Treat them and their calls fairly and respectfully.
Enthusiastically support and practice the "Everyone Plays," "Good Sportsmanship," "Positive Coaching" and "Player Development" philosophies of AYSO.
Be reasonable in your demands on a young player's time, energy, enthusiasm and performance on the soccer field.
Impress on your players that they must abide by the Laws of the Game at all times.
Develop team respect for the ability of opponents, and for the judgment of referees and opposing coaches.
Ensure that your players' soccer experience is one of fun and enjoyment (winning is only part of it). Players should never be yelled at or ridiculed for making mistakes or losing a game.
Set a good example and be generous with your praise when it is deserved. Children need a coach they can respect.
Keep informed of sound principles of coaching, growth and child development.
Check your equipment and playing facilities. They should meet safety standards and be appropriate for the age and ability of your players.
Follow the advice of a physician when determining when an injured child is ready to play again.
Dedication - Being An AYSO Volunteer
What are volunteers?
People who give freely of their time and talent to a worthwhile group or cause. A volunteer is someone who believes that people make a difference and is willing to prove it.
What is an AYSO volunteer?
A coach, a referee, a registrar, a fundraiser, a field marker, a publicist, a treasurer - many people, all contributing their time and efforts to make AYSO a great program for our soccer-playing kids.
Why does AYSO need volunteers?
AYSO needs volunteers because people power runs AYSO. Volunteers strengthen AYSO by giving their time and energy, their ideas and ideals. Volunteers make AYSO happen.
Who can be an AYSO volunteer?
Almost anyone can volunteer. Moms, dads, sisters, brothers, grandparents, even friends. We need women and men, young, middle-aged and "young at heart" folks. AYSO wants volunteers who want to help make our soccer program a fun experience for kids.
Everyone plays in AYSO, and everyone has something special to contribute to the program.
- They contribute a special skill or ability.
- They contribute their time.
- They contribute their energy.
- They contribute themselves.
What do AYSO volunteers do?
- They do what is needed to make the program work.
- They coach teams and stuff envelopes.
- They referee games and write checks.
- They line the field and work in the snack bar.
- They put up goals and take down nets.
- They take registrations and raise funds.
- They bandage knees and schedule games.
- They put up posters and take pictures.
- They buy equipment and go to meetings.
- They call meetings and run computer programs.
- They make decisions and make a difference.
How do AYSO volunteers help themselves?
AYSO volunteers gain satisfaction and growth from their experiences. They make new friends. They learn new skills. They develop creativity. They investigate new careers. They enrich their lives.
How do I become an AYSO volunteer?
It's easy. Talk to your child's coach, call your Regional Commissioner or any of the Region's board members. They will be most helpful - and happy - to find the right job for you.
Extras - AYSO's Special programs
AYSO's special programs allow any child to enjoy the benefits of soccer, regardless of ability or circumstances, and to get the utmost benefit at every level from beginner to expert.
Very Important Player (VIP)
The AYSO Very Important Players (VIP) Program provides a quality soccer experience for children and adults whose physical or mental disabilities make it difficult to successfully participate on mainstream teams. The program has special rule allowances so more kids can enjoy the benefits of AYSO soccer. VIP teams may include players who are blind, amputees, mentally challenged, autistic, and players with Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, or other conditions that impair mobility, strength, and/or comprehension.
VIP programs operate within the existing structure of a Region, just like a Division. VIP integrates its players with the rest of AYSO by using "buddies" from other teams to help the players both on and off the field. Teams are made up of as few as five players, and may be coed. VIP teams are balanced like other AYSO teams, with players rated by size and physical ability.
For AYSO programs in communities facing economic hardship, the Team-Up program provides assistance until the program can get on its feet. Used uniforms and equipment are often donated for Regions that need help, and other assistance may be provided by the AYSO national organization.
New and existing AYSO Regions can apply for Team-Up assistance. Team-Up programs have been successful in inner-city and rural areas, as well as Native American reservations and small towns.
Fun! - What It's All About
The national media has focused on the negative, even violent, behavior of players, coaches and parents involved in youth sports. As part of AYSO's education agenda, Kids Zone® is a dynamic program targeted to eliminate negative sideline behavior. It is aimed toward producing a thoroughly positive impact on everyone involved in youth soccer. To execute this program, three basic elements are involved:
- The Button. This is a pin-on button bearing the program's logo. This will be worn by program supporters at games, and will serve as a reminder of the importance of positive sideline behavior.
- The Sign. A large sign, which lists positive behavior standards, will be posted at the entrance of participating fields. Parents and spectators who will abide by these standards are welcome - all others are not.
- The Pledge. We request AYSO parents to sign a pledge that holds them to the Kids Zone® standards.
As a support to these elements, we also have a special Kids Zone® Promise. It's a simple pledge, but we encourage all AYSO members to consider these words:
I promise to Honor the Game. I will respect all participants, encourage good sportsmanship and keep soccer fun.
Finally, we encourage all AYSO members to help Kids Zone® grow. Let your region know that you support Kids Zone®. AYSO depends on you to keep youth soccer safe, fun and fair. So spread the word!
To order Kids Zone® materials, call the AYSO Supply Center at (888) 243-2976.
Play It SafeSafety is a big part of keeping things fun. Here are few safety tips to keep in mind:
BuddiesAdvise your child never to leave a practice or game alone. Walk with a buddy whenever possible.
Goal PostsNEVER let your children play on soccer goals. Portable goals have been known to tip over when people play on them, resulting in serious injury and even death.
Code WordIf you normally pick your child up from the field, but have to send someone else, use a code word. That way, if someone comes up and says "Your mother sent me to pick you up," but they don't have the code word you and your child have established, your child knows not to go with the stranger.