How To Play Soccer (Beginner To Pro – All Positions)

Learn how to play soccer with this complete guide. you will learn all the steps needed to rocket yourself to the next level.

To play soccer, learn the game’s basic rules and then learn the techniques of using the soccer ball – control, kick, tackle, dribble, head, and taking a set-piece. 

Here are the details we will look at;

  1. How to play soccer – the rules
  2. How to control a soccer ball
  3. How to kick a soccer ball
  4. How to tackle a soccer ball
  5. How to dribble a soccer ball
  6. How to head a soccer ball
  7. How to juggle a soccer ball
  8. How to take a set piece

In this article, I will guide you on all of the important skills you need to be able to play soccer, plus there are advanced tips that will give you the edge!

Soccer match behind assistant referee - how to play soccer
Contents show

How To Play Soccer: Rules

1. How to Start of a Game

Before a match game start, the direction the team plays needs to be decided. The captains and the referee will get together, and a coin will be flipped; the winner will decide which direction they will face in the first half.

  • A coin is flipped to decide who starts and the direction of the play
  • Teams stand in opposite halves
  • The ball is placed in the center circle
  • The winning team has a player in the center circle
  • The ball is kicked back to their team

If there’s a strong wind, it’s best to have your back to the wind and hope it’s not as strong in the second half.

The teams will stand in the half where their goal is; they are defending.  The team that lost the coin toss will kick off the match by placing the ball on the spot in the center of the field – the ball is passed back into your half.

Note, the old rules had two players in the center circle, one to tap it into the opponent’s half, and the other player would continue – now that rule is obsolete, you only need one player starting the match.

Each team will advance into the opposition half to try and advance with the ball. 

2. What to do After A Goal

When a goal is scored and the players celebrate, all players will return to their half. The kick-off procedure is the same as the start of a game.

Sometimes a goal can be scored on the whistle for half time or full time; in this case, there will be no need for a kick-off. 

3. What Happens at Half Time

At halftime, the referee will blow the whistle to signal the game has ended for halftime. When the referee whistles for a foul or stoppage, there’s one whistle blow and, for half-time, two.

For a pro’s match, there will be a 15-minute break for the players to rest and get instructions from the coach. 

Youth players will get between 5 and 15 minutes for a break, depending on the league rules.

soccer field diagram the areas of the field to helping how to play soccer
Soccer field terms of play

4. What to do at The End of a Match

At the end of the match, the referee will blow the whistle 3 times. This will be after extra time is added on for injuries and stoppages.

When the whistle is blown, the players, along with the officials, will shake each other’s hands as a sign of respect (or fist pump during a pandemic).

The players will then return to their coach and be given compliments and advice. 

5. What happens When there’s a Foul

A foul is given against a player when they obstruct, kick, or the hand/arm touches the ball. If a player blocks an opponent without going for the ball, it’s obstruction.

If you kick a player trying to tackle, it’s a foul.

A foot can touch another player’s leg and not be a foul; it must be an obvious disadvantage to the opponent.

6. Who get’s a Yellow Card

General fouls will go unpunished, but you can receive a yellow card if you commit several of them.

Yellow cards are also given if you foul when the opposition is making a promising break to your goal. Pulling a jersey will get you a yellow card and an intentional handball.

If you disrespect the referee/staff/players and fans, this can get your name in the ‘book’.

Youth games will normally see fewer yellow cards than a pro match because the referee will be lenient due to miss-timing or not knowing. 

Player positions - Defense, Midfield and Attack.Corner Ark, penalty box, six yards box, center circle, goal, penalty spot, center spot, goal line, penalty ark, halfway line, corner kick, touch line, throw in. Wing/flank - back, middle and front.
Soccer field infographic – positions and areas

7. Why Players Get Red Cards

Two yellow cards will get you a red card, and you will have to leave the field for the rest of the game. A red card will be given if you cause a risk of injuring a player by being reckless.

Players are sometimes fined money and suspended for following games depending on their offense.

This can be if you slide tackle from behind, slide tackle with your studs showing, elbow a player or raise your hand and strike a player’s face. 

8. What’s a Pass Back

The pass-back rule is introduced in most leagues from under 9’s, but this can vary. If a player passes the ball back to their goalkeeper, the GK is not allowed to pick the ball up, they kick the ball.

If the pass was unintentional, the GK could pick it up.

This rule was introduced to keep the game flowing because it slowed down the game. If the GK does pick up the ball from a pass by a player on the same team, a free kick is awarded (this will be from wherever the ball is picked up/handled).

For the pros, an indirect free kick is given, which means if you shoot from the free kick and score, the goal will not be given, so another player needs to touch the ball after the kicker.

The indirect freekick rule is not always used in youth soccer – be sure to ask the referee if it happens in your game. 

standing on a soccer ball - this is how to play soccer
Controlling a soccer ball – foot on the ball

How to Control a Soccer Ball

9. How to Stop a Soccer Ball

The most simple way is to let the ball hit you; as silly as this may seem, you can do this in many cool ways.

  • Focus on the ball
  • Get in position
  • get your foot in line with the ball
  • Cushion the ball as it touches you

Another example is Ronaldinho, and he’s passed the ball by letting it hit his back! He angled his back to get it directed to his teammate. 

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A couple of simpler methods include putting your foot on the ball, but the most used one is turning your foot so that the inside of your foot cushions the ball.

If you keep your leg too stiff, the ball will bounce away, so keep your footloose so that your foot becomes like a sponge on skills the ball.  

10. How to Receive a Ball

When the ball is coming towards you, you should stand facing the ball with your feet at an angle, allowing you to move your feet to control the ball when it’s a yard or two away, and you know where it’s going to land.

soccer player side passing
Receiving the ball – inside foot

Have your favorite foot open for the ball to hit the inside of your foot, allowing you to control it easily or make a first-time pass. 

11. How to Trap a Ball

Trapping a bouncing ball requires good timing. You need to time the trap so that it’s when the ball is closest to the ground.

If you try to trap the ball any more than three inches from the ground, the ball can easily bounce away from you.

When the ball is close to the ground, you need to stamp your foot on it quickly. Practice this at home by dropping the ball – you can trap it on the first or second bounce. To make it harder, throw the ball into the air. 

12. How to Control a ball In The Air – Foot/Chest/Head

The foot: if the ball is going away from you, stretch out your leg and curl the toes in your cleats upwards – this movement of the toes creates a slight curve which allows controlling the ball easier.

The chest: If the ball is coming directly towards you, keep your chest straight and tuck back your shoulders so that there’s more strength to your chest.

The head: A cushioned header is required to stop the ball in the air. This is the same technique required to control the ball with the foot. Get in the correct position under the ball and relax your head and shoulders – this will cushion the power of the ball.

soccer player juggling the ball
Controlling a soccer ball – using balance

If the ball is coming towards you, turn your foot outwards, so your inside foot is shown and has your cleats at a 45-degree angle to the ground to trap and control in the air.

With both methods using the foot, allow it to be slightly loose so that you cushion the ball.

When the ball is coming from above, get in position to where the ball is going to land at the height of your chest. 

Lean your head back and open your chest to allow the ball to land on your chest. 

Imagine if the ball hit the goal post, it would rebound off, but if the posts were not fixed to the ground, it would cushion the power.

For all of these steps, after you’ve cushioned it, prepare your next move by getting behind the ball, ready to pass it or dribble. 

striking a soccer ball with arms for balance
Striking a soccer ball – raised leg and arm

How to kick a Soccer Ball

13. How to Touch a Ball

The most common and easiest way to touch a soccer ball is with the inside of your foot. This is used for all aspects of the game – passing, dribbling, and shooting.

This is done with the ark of your foot – the hardest part. Your leg needs to be at an angle so that you aren’t just twisting your ankle.

It’ll take time for your muscles to adapt. Players use their toes to kick the ball along when starting, but make sure you’ve strong footwear. Otherwise, it can bend back your toenails! 

14. How to Pass a Ball

The easiest and most accurate way to pass a soccer ball is with the inside of your foot. Have one foot firmly planted into the ground and the other one will swing towards the ball.

The leg’s swing is important – if the swing is loose or going in different directions, it can cause the ball to go away from the target.

soccer player side foot pass
Passing a soccer ball

Keep the ankle and foot firm when the foot contacts the ball to get a ‘clean contact’. You need to hit the ball in the center of the ball or just underneath.

If you hit the ball at the upper point, your foot will go over the ball and cause the ball to have topspin. Passing can be done with any part of the body.

The most important thing is for the moving part of the body to be aiming in a consistent direction towards the player you are passing to.

Image a golf club and the swinger – the angle needs to be aligned towards the hole with a firm grip for the put to go straight. 

15. How to Chip a Soccer Ball

To chip the ball, you need to get your foot underneath the ball. There are two ways of doing this.

  1. With the inside of the foot, The ball will be connected with the upper end of the toe. So you will swipe your foot, like a side pass, but your foot’s connection area will be different for a chip.
  2. The laces; Angle your feet towards the ball and swing your leg so the toes go towards the ball. Point your toes down slightly, so the foot gets underneath the ball.

Again have the studs of your blades brush along the turf to get under the ball.

The blades of your cleats need to sweep through the turf. (avoid trying to get too much under the ball, you can kick the ground – which is painful!)

behind legs of a dribbling player
Chipping a soccer ball – toes underneath the ball

This is my favorite technique because it makes them do a backspin. Back spins help the ball to float in the air better, plus when a back spinning ball hits the ground, it does not run away from the player that you are passing it to; also, if you try to chip the keeper, the spin of the ball will pull it down from the air. 

16. How to Shoot a Soccer Ball

The best two ways to shoot are 1. With power and 2. With accuracy. If you are outside the penalty box, you need power, and if there’s a good goalkeeper in goal, you also need accuracy.

The most important thing all soccer coaches say is, to get it on target. Give the keeper something to think about, and there’s a possible bonus of a deflection off of the GK, which will give a chance for a rebound.

soccer player striking the ball
Shooting a soccer ball – twist the body as you follow through

When shooting in practice, it’s best to aim for the corners. Once you get accurate at shooting, you can increase the power – but first must come the technique.

Sometimes, a power shot will be the best option when there’s a crowd of players or when you are close to the keeper – a power shot will give the GK no time to react.

Place the ball inside your foot, and you can attempt to curl the ball when you become better.

To curl the ball, use the inside of your foot towards the toes, and as you strike the ball, the term ‘wrap your foot around it’s used as you hit the ball, your leg arches around the ball on the right of the ball if you’re a right-footer. 

The laces are used mostly to get power into a shot. For this, you need to tilt the foot towards the ball so that the laces of your cleats hit the ball. Follow your leg with a good swing to get the most power.

17. How to ‘Clear’  a Soccer Ball

Clearing the ball is a defensive term for getting the ball away from the danger zone. Any of the ways mentioned will clear the ball, but most commonly, you will need power and height.

The most important thing is to clear the ball away from the goal area, so there’s less risk of a goal threat.

You can simply pass the ball to the touchline to give the opposition a throw-in – this is better than conceding! Ideally, when you clear the ball, it’ll go into an area where the striker is so that you’ve got a chance of a counterattack.

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Safety does come first when playing soccer, but if you panic and clear the ball when you don’t need to, you give the ball back to the opposition and lose possession.

As a famous commentator once said, ‘you can’t score when you haven’t got the ball!’

18. How to Volley a Soccer Ball

A volley is used when you kick the ball off the ground. Two terms for this are a half volley, which is when the ball has bounced off of the ground, and a volley which normally comes from another player.

As the side foot section mentioned, you can volley with a side foot.

This is a great way to pass a ball quickly when it’s bouncing, and it’s easier to put it in the air because you need less power. 

The most lethal volley is with the laces. Keep your foot straight towards the ball and flick the knee to the ball, keeping your ankle firm to generate power.

soccer player volleying with laces
Volleying a soccer ball – using the laces

To make the volley low, curl your toes down to the ground, and to volley like a pro, you need to use your arms to give you balance; this allows you to generate power in your volley. 

19. How to Back Heel a Soccer Ball 

This is where you get fancy! A backheel can catch the opponents off guard. Sometimes you’ll be in a situation where your back is to the ball and heeling the ball is the quickest way to play.

To heel the ball, you need to swing your leg back and connect with the center of the ball.

Connect with the ball when your leg moves at its fastest point in the swing to generate the most power. 

For a pro back heel, heel the ball when it’s bouncing – this is fun to do as you can generate a surprising amount of power.

For a super pro move, heel the ball just off-center, and you can curl the ball! 

two players tackling a soccer ball
Standing tackle – face to face

How To Tackle A Soccer Ball

20. How Not To Be Afraid and Tackle in Soccer

It can seem a bit rough when you are just starting in soccer! All is done under the rules and supervision of the referee, so be strong and stand strong.

The best piece of advice is to have your feet firmly placed on the ground with your legs apart a little and your toes pointing outwards.

soccer player with foot on the ball holding off an opponent
Shielding a soccer ball

You may have noticed that in soccer, there are tall players and short ones. People may think that taller players are the strongest, but being short has its advantages. 

Short players have a low center of gravity, making them more stable.

Wear shin pads, which is where you feel contact the most – the shin pads I use have ankle support attached.

Some shin pads I think, are too short. Be comfortable in your soccer gear and be brave. 

21. How to Poke Tackle

A poking tackle is the safest way to tackle but keep your position. With other tackles, you can lose balance or let the opponent pass if you don’t win the ball, but a poke keeps the player on the back foot.

When you do a poke tackle, look at your opponent and see when they take their eyes off the ball.

poke tackle two soccer players
Tackling a soccer ball

You need to be patient and time it correctly. When the player takes a lookup to see teammates or the goal – now’s your time to poke.

When you do poke the ball, stretch out your leg and use your toes.

You will poke the ball to a teammate for a perfect poke tackle. If not, you can clear it a little or just enough to put your opponent off, so they must take the ball backward. 

22. How to Shoulder Tackle

A shoulder tackle is allowed, but a barge is not. So you cannot just run into a player with your shoulder; you need to do it shoulder to shoulder.

Some players are too strong to even think of doing this, but it’s possible if you catch them at the right moment.

If their feet are set, keep your position and wait until they are relaxed in the upper body or mid-spring in a sprint. 

23. How to do a Standing Tackle

The best way to do a standing tackle is to use the inside of your foot. Make sure you can connect with the ball cleanly.

Be in a good position between the opponent and the goal, and keep your ankle and foot firm.

If you get a strong connection and push through,, there’s a chance the ball will be knocked out into open play, making it a 50/50 ball.

A standing tackle is also a poke tackle, but using the side foot, gives you more chance of regaining possession. 

tackling and holding off two soccer players
Standing tackle

24. How to Slide Tackle

A few years ago, it was easier to slide tackle without being in danger to the referee, but now if you miss the tackle, you can easily be shown a yellow or red card.

When you do slide tackle, make sure you don’t slide towards the player with your studs showing – this can cause an injury to the opponent and get you sent off. 

soccer player on the ground in a slide tackle
Slide tackle – using the toe

A slide tackle is best done using the laces of your cleats. This can be done when you are alongside a player or behind them.

If the opponent is to your left, you need to use your right foot; if they are to your right, use your right foot.

When running, spring into the slide and sweep your leg towards the ball. Make good contact with the ball to clear it.

For a pro slide that not many players can do, hook your foot around the ball to keep possession and stand up with the ball at your feet while the opponent is on the ground. 

Be careful if you are slide tackling on artificial turf; it can be painful and cause burns. It’s best to do it when you are on natural turf.

25. How to Block Tackle

One of the most important ways to tackle it is with a block tackle. This tackle is used to block a pass or block a shot. Be on your toes, ready for the opponent to strike the ball.

Keep an eye on the angle of the foot, which will give you an idea of the direction the ball will be heading.

The block tackle can be done standing on your feet and as a slide tackle, in a last-ditch attempt to block by raising your leg if the shot is high.

Soccer player action on the stadium
Dribbling a soccer ball – outside of the foot

How To Dribble a Soccer Ball

26. How to Dribble with Your Toes

Use the toes to dribble forward by angling your foot towards the ground and pushing the ball forward a little before you. Do it gently at first, so you don’t lose control of the ball.

You can go left and right when you dribble with your toe, so it’s a good way to face an opponent when attacking.

Then when you do decide to go one way or the other, use your inside or outside of the foot to change direction.

27. How to Dribble with Inside Foot

The inside of the foot dribble is the easiest one to do. Open your foot out so that the inside of your foot is facing toward the ball. So your standing foot will be straight, and the dribbling foot will be angled.

soccer player dribbling with outside of foot 2
Dribble touch with the toe

Dribble with the inside foot if you are preparing to strike the ball in the same position – this is the best way to get your body in position.

28. How to Dribble with the Outside Foot

When you dribble with the outside of the foot, it’s just where your little toe is.

This type of dribbling is best, for example, when you are a left-winger, using your left foot so that the ball is a little further away from your opponent. Use the outside of your foot to take the ball away from the defender. 

soccer player dribbling with outside of foot
Dribble with the outside of the foot

29. How to Dribble Like Messi

Messi is the best player on the planet at dribbling, and the key to it’s that he can go in all directions; this is what the defenders hate the most – not knowing where the attacker is going.

soccer player dribbling with toes
Dribbling using the laces

To be like Messi, you need to master the three dribbling techniques above and be able to quickly tap the ball in the direction you want to go in.

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Although Messi is short, his strong, powerful legs allow him to spring in any direction – his center of gravity is low as he bends his knees when dribbling.

How to Head A Soccer Ball

young players practicins headers in soccer
Youth player practicing headers

30. When to Head or Not

If it hurts your head, it’s best not to head the ball until you are older – some balls are very heavy and can hurt!

The modern are lighter than they used to be, making it easier to head without pain.

Sometimes the ball is coming to you from high; you can judge where the ball will land and get behind it and play with your feet.

Soccer player juggling with head
Controlled heading

31. Head a Soccer Ball Without It Hurting

The strongest part of your head is your forehead, so getting a good connection in the right place won’t hurt.

Practice with a friend some headers – stand close to each other and gently loop the ball in the air.

Practicing will give you the confidence to head the ball without it hurting. A type of header that is unlikely to hurt is a flick, so when the ball comes in, you just flick it with the top of your head – causing the ball to go in a slightly different direction. 

32. How to Head and Not Be Afraid

heading a soccer ball in a volley
Eye contact when heading

It’s important to keep your eyes open when you head the ball to know where you will connect with it. Use your neck muscles to generate power in the header and practice leaps to increase your jumping height.

Develop the muscles in training to feel strong and confident – this will ensure you aren’t afraid to head the ball.

33. Different Header Types

Clearance: Connect with the ball at the top of your forehead where there’s a slight angle. The angle on the top of your head will cause the ball to go up in the air – which is important for clearing the ball. 

Downward: Get your head above the ball and connect on the upper part of the ball – this will cause the ball to go downwards. You can use this as a pass or shoot.

Shooting: Pull your neck back and push it forward when the ball reaches you – this will generate a lot of power. It’s very hard for a goalkeeper to save a header aimed toward the ground.

juggling a soccer ball
Juggling a soccer ball

How to Juggle a Soccer Ball

34. How to juggle with your Feet

Juggling with your feet in soccer is also known as kick-ups. When you try to juggle, curl your toes towards the ball – this creates a better landing shape on your feet and makes it easier.

First, kick the ball in the air to your waist; if it is too high, it’s harder to control.

controlling a soccer ball ina juggle

This is a drill that players can do on their own, so practice at home. Set yourself targets and count the number of times you do it. Use both feet so that you’ve to balance between both feet.

35. How to juggle with your Knees

Juggling with your knees is useful in some game games where the ball lands near your knee when you’re competing for a ball.

Juggling a soccer ball on a knee
Juggling with knees

When you juggle, bring your knee up, so the upper leg is horizontal – this will keep the keep straight when you knee it up.

Move your knee up and down to get momentum, and use your standing leg to twist or hop if needed.

36. How to Head a Soccer Ball

Juggling with the head is the hardest of all – it’s easy when you kick it up to your head and head it back down.

To use your head only, throw the ball up in the air and bob up and down with your eyes looking straight up. Keep your head as straight as you can, just enough so that you can see the ball.

Soccer player juggling with head
Heading a soccer ball – use the arms as balance

Use a light ball, so there’s less chance of head pain, and stop if you feel any pain. 

kicking a penalty in soccer with keeper diving
Taking a set-piece – firm standing foot and body swing

How To Take Set Pieces

37. How to Take a Throw-In

You can stand behind or on the line from the sideline to take a throw-in. You must use both of your hands. The ball must be released when it is behind or over the head.

If the goes over the head and in front of the player when the ball is released, then a foul throw is awarded, and the throw is given to the opponents.

soccer player taking a throw in ball behind the head
Throwing a soccer ball with it behind your head

Youth referees aren’t as strict as the pros if you release the ball past your head. You cannot throw the ball to yourself, another player need to touch it before you can, plus you cannot throw the ball at a player.

Normally the fullbacks will take the throw-ins, and if there’s no player free to throw it to, throw it down the touchline towards a teammate.

soccer player releasing the ball in a throw in
Release the ball to throw when it’s above your head

38. How to Take a Goal Kick

Any player can take a goal kick. Sometimes a defender might have a better kick than the goalkeeper so that they may take the kick, or the GK may be injured.

A goal kick is given when the ball goes behind the goal, last touched by the attacking team.

scocer player with leg swung to strike the ball
Taking a set piece – body shape

The ball is placed inside the goal box/6-yard box and kicked out of the penalty area.

The opponents must leave the penalty area when the goal kick is taken. Some coaches like to play it out from the back; others like to get the ball forward.

Ensure the ball won’t be intercepted by an opponent when taking the kick. If you are kicking long, aim for a tall or strong player up the pitch or an area where your team has more players.

39. How to Take a Free-Kick

When the referee awards a foul, the referee will point to where the free kick is to be taken from. The opponents must stand at least 10 yards away from the ball.

Wait for the signal from the referee for the kick to be taken, and whenever the ball is touched, it means the ball is back in play.

profile of soccer player after striking the ball
Taking a free kick – strike through the ball

Have two players lined up to take the kick to the keeper and do not know where the ball is going. Try and get the ball over the wall or hit it with power to where you can see the goal.

40. How to Take a Corner Kick

A defending team touches the ball behind their goal, so the referee awards a corner kick. Again, the opponents are required to stand 10 yards away from the corner.

  • Take a run-up
  • Chip the ball to beat the first defender
  • Aim 2 yards plus away from the keeper
  • Curl the ball to make defending difficult
  • Don’t hit it over everybody

Cross the ball into the box to give your teammates a chance to score.

Aim to cross the ball head height to the edge of the goal area. If the goalkeeper catches it, aim for the penalty spot next time. 

41. How to Take a Penalty Kick

Penalty kicks are taken from the spot marked inside the penalty box. The distance from the goal varies for each age group. The pros take a penalty from 12 yards away.

No players apart from the goalkeeper and taker are allowed in the penalty area until the ball has been kicked.

The goalkeeper must stay on the line until the ball is kicked. The GK is allowed to move along when the kick is being taken. The bottom corner is normally the best place to aim the ball.

Don’t give the goalkeeper clues to where the ball is going until it’s kicked. Make sure you get it on target with power.

Follow up to the goal from the kick in case of a rebound. Showing the inside of your foot to one side of the goal and changing it at the last second can make the GK think it’s going in the opposite corner.

Practice, practice, practice – you’ll be amazed how much you will develop as you focus on one specific skill. Refer to these tips, and you’ll be a pro before you know it.

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