Is Soccer Hard To Play? (Make It Easier)

With over 3.5 billion fans around the globe, soccer is the most popular sport in the world. Soccer is simple by design, ensuring you can play alone or in a group and with minimal equipment (just a ball will do). 

If you’re a fan but have never participated in the sport, you’ve probably wondered, “is soccer hard to play?”

This article is for anyone who’s thinking about lacing up a pair of cleats and giving soccer a go. We look at the difficulty of soccer and how you can get started. Other important topics we cover include:

  • Avenues into the game
  • The challenges associated with soccer
  • The key skills of a soccer player
  • How to get good at soccer

Is it possible to go from a casual fan to a regular player? Keep reading to find out. 

Cristiano Ronaldo Cr7 Portugal
Cristiano Ronaldo CR7 Portugal ○ Soccer Blade

Is Soccer Hard To Play

Soccer is a relatively easy sport to play. Compared to the likes of American football, baseball, and even basketball, the rules are very straightforward.

Unless you’re playing in a competitive match, you can set up a soccer game with a single ball and some “jumpers for goalposts” (goalposts created by sweaters).

If you don’t have teammates, you can easily practice shooting, dribbling, or passing in a small space. 

However, if you want to become a good player, soccer isn’t so easy. Soccer is not only the most popular sport in the world, but it is also one of the oldest.

Soccer has been around for hundreds (if not thousands) of years, meaning it has progressed significantly in terms of coaching, tactics, and skill level. 

Soccer is Easy To Learn But Hard To Be Great

Due to its accessibility, soccer is an easy sport to get involved in. Whether you’re playing in the backyard or on a recreation league team, you might be surprised at how quickly you can pick it up.

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After learning the basics, you can work consistently on your skillset, accelerating your development in the sport. 

Even if you struggle to make progress with your first touch, shooting, or passing abilities, effort goes a long way in soccer. Working hard off the ball, making runs, and putting your body on the line, will make you a valuable asset to most teams. In certain defensive positions, technical skill isn’t a priority. 

Playing as A Defender

Defenders can endure a lot of success through grit and physicality, despite never possessing the finesse of some of the more complete players. Even at a professional level, many center-backs are regularly criticized for their technician deficiencies, particularly when it comes to passing and forward progressions.

As you advance through the competitive levels in soccer, it becomes increasingly difficult. Many kids come out of the womb kicking a ball.

Soccer is institutionalized in plenty of countries, creating exceptional talent pools at a youth level. In addition to competing with natural talents and genetic freaks, the standard of coaching is very high on a global scale. 

Tactics

In competitive leagues, tactics, formations, and systems come into play. Players are likely to have “homework” or video room obligations, studying patterns and positioning meticulously.

While you can always find a soccer team or league for your level, it is an extremely difficult game to succeed in professionally. 

Neymar Of Brazil Greets Fans After His Team Defeated Serbia
Neymar of Brazil greets fans after his team defeated Serbia.

The Beautiful Game

One of the greatest things about soccer is how fun it is to play. For high-level players, the level of competition makes winning a sweet experience. However, at a recreational standard, soccer is a very enjoyable game

If you’re playing with others, teamwork, comradery, and competition is incredibly addictive. When practicing alone, you can isolate particular skills and techniques, and observe improvement in real-time.

The progress of skill development is one of the most rewarding aspects of soccer. 

Different Ways To Play Soccer

There are tons of different ways to play soccer. Fun games are a great way to improve your ability level in a fun and depressurized environment. You can set up 1 v 1 mini goal games, 5-a-side soccer, skills challenges, and much more. Another backyard favorite is a game called headers and volleys. 

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Headers and volleys is a staple street game in the UK. The rules are simple. Outfield players work together to score. However, they are only allowed to score with a header or volley. If an outfield player kicks the ball out of bounds, he or she trades places with the goalkeeper. 

Each player is given a certain number of lives. Every time the goalkeeper concedes a goal, he or she loses a life. There are many variations to this game so it’s important to get up to speed with house rules before signing up. 

Why Soccer Is Hard To Play

Competitive soccer can be extremely demanding. To earn your place on a team, you must train hard and hone your skills. Some of the most difficult aspects of the game include: 

Fitness

A soccer match lasts 90 minutes. While players don’t run for the entire game, they cover a lot of ground. In fact, professional soccer players run more per game than any other sport. 

RankSportDistance Covered
1Soccer7 miles
2Field Hockey5.6 miles
3Tennis3 miles
4Basketball2.55 miles
5American Football1.25 miles
6Baseball0.0375 miles
Miles covered per game from Runners World

Physicality

Despite the tendency for modern players to flop or feign injury, it is becoming an increasingly physical game. Year on year, players are getting, fitter, faster, and stronger.

Modern soccer is an athlete’s sport and significant physicality is required at the highest level.

Soccer players typically have muscular legs and a strong core. This helps them meet running demands, compete for 50-50 challenges, and hold off opposition defenders.

Many elite soccer players, like Cristiano Ronaldo, dedicate themselves to staying in peak physical condition year-round.

Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t miss a day at the gym.

Technique

You can have elite-level fitness and a muscular body, but without the necessary skill and technique, it’s impossible to succeed in soccer. The technique can only be developed by spending long hours on the training field.

Some of the most important techniques for soccer players to work on include: 

  • Passing 
  • Shooting 
  • First Touch 
  • Dribbling 
  • Tackling
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Advanced players work on variations of these techniques, using different parts of the body to control the ball, kicking with either foot and shooting with the inside and outside of the foot. 

Check out our article on advanced soccer moves to help refine your technique.

Positioning

Being in the right place at the right time is a skill. While some players have a natural instinct for positioning, most people have to learn it. Knowing where you should be on a soccer field at all times, makes the game much easier to play.

Getting caught out of position too often typically ends in players getting demoted to the subs’ bench. 

Reading The Game

Positioning and reading the game is similar but not quite the same. Correct positioning puts you in the right place to react appropriately.

However, a good reading of the game enables you to anticipate moves and act before they even happen. Now, put both of these attributes together and you have a valuable asset for virtually any team in the world. 

Players like Andrea Pirlo, Paul Scholes, and Wayne Rooney were always several steps ahead of their opponents. Their high-level ability to read the game made their play look effortless.

Among the many great quotes about Paul Scholes, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s stark description of his style is perhaps the most accurate: 

“He’s not the quickest, he doesn’t run the most, he never wins a header, he can’t tackle but he’s the best player.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

How To Get Good At Soccer

If you want to get good at soccer, the solution is straightforward but by no means easy: just play. Play with friends, practice alone in your backyard, set up some drills, or join your local team.

Dedication and perseverance are the keys to improving your all-around game.

Check out our article on how to get better at soccer for some added inspiration.

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Playing Soccer FAQ

Is soccer a contact sport?

While tackling with excessive force, charging, and striking opponents are illegal in soccer, players often overstep the boundaries. Although this generally results in appropriate sanctions being awarded, it doesn’t prevent significant contact from occurring.

What do soccer teams do at halftime?

At halftime, soccer teams exit the field. They return to their bench area. For youth teams, they may not have a locker room. However, many college and professional teams do head back to the locker room. 
The break is an opportunity for teams to collect themselves. They may talk about what is going well in the game, and what they need to resolve.

How do I join a soccer team?

Attend trials for schools, teams in your local area. If no trials are due, then contact the coach to see if you can join a practice. Search for local soccer teams and try a few to see if it suits your ability and it also needs to be a place that you would enjoy. Scholarships are also available depending on your age, ability, and location. 

Why does a soccer ball curve?

The angle and speed with which the soccer player’s boot strikes the ball determine how far the ball travels. The ball won’t curve or spin if the player hits it right in the middle with their foot following through in a completely straight line.

What are some injuries players get when playing soccer? 

The most common knee and ankle injuries are mild to severe sprains, strains, and tears. Other less common knee and ankle injuries include dislocations and fractures.

What are some ways to pass a soccer ball?

+ Inside foot: Using the area above and inside of the big toe.
+ Outside foot: This creates a spin on the ball to swerve the ball around players
+ The Laces: A powerful volley can be performed with a straight leg swing.
+ Spin: If the toes get underneath the ball with some force you create a backspin.
+ Back heel: Connect the heel with the ball to reverse play.
+ Header: Often used for clearing and shooting, but can be a creative passing move.
+ Body: Use any part of the body to deflect the ball into the path you desire.

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