Soccer Definitions - P PDF Print E-mail

The speed on the ball, speed of a player or speed of the game. You want to have proper "pace" on a pass. (See "Weight"). The British also use this to refer to a player's closing speed (e.g., "he has great pace").

A pass is a kick, or a ball played with the head, chest or thigh, that is intended to be received by a teammate. Like in basketball, passing is preferable to dribbling because the ball can be moved more quickly & can better be kept away from the other team. By U-12, it is critical for a team to be able to attack by passing. (See "Pass To Feet", "Push Pass", "Hopped Pass", "Toe-Kick", "Flick Pass", "Pass To Space"

Pass to Feet
Passing to a teammate's feet is good if he is surrounded by defenders, but otherwise it is better to "pass to space". It is important to teach this to your players. An example of when you should "pass to feet" is if a forward is in scoring range but defenders are around him. Players U-12 & older should be taught to control a hard pass to their feet.

Pass to Space
Teach players to "pass to space" (i.e., to "open space") & teach receivers to anticipate passes to space, as opposed to "passing to feet". These passes are sometimes called "leading passes" (if they are made to space in front of a receiver) or "through passes" (if they are through the defense into the open space behind the defense). This is a very important concept to teach & one that I think should be introduced by U-8 & definitely by U-10. It becomes increasingly important, as players become older, & is very important by U-12. An advantage of this style of play (as opposed to "passing to feet") is that players learn they must be alert and must go to the ball and not wait for the ball to come to them. Passing to space also encourages "movement off the ball". (See "Creating Space", "Leading Pass", "Through Ball", "Wall Pass", "Formations", "Attacking Plan", "Styles of Play", "Pass To Yourself", "Open Space", "Pass To Feet".

Pass to Yourself
(aka "Pop It"). As players get older & better, it becomes very difficult for an attacker to dribble past a defender & passing becomes very important. By U-12, your attack won't work very well unless your team can "pass", "pass to space" & "pass to yourself". One way to beat a defender is to "pass the ball to yourself" by passing the ball to open space behind the defender & then beating him to it. The passer has the advantages of knowing where he is passing it & of forward momentum, while the defender must turn around and gain momentum. This is one way to get through the last line of defenders if they have "pushed up" & in that case is like passing a "through ball" to yourself. This works best if the attacker is faster than the defender. I tell attackers to "pop the ball" past the defender & ideally to chip it or kick an "airball" if they can, since an airball is hardest for a defender to block with his foot. Since they can run faster without dribbling than they can if they are dribbling, I tell them to pop it as far as they can while still beating the defender to it. For example, if they are on the right or left side, they can pop it farther than if they are in the center, because if they kick it too far down the center the goalkeeper will get it. If the defender is faster than the attacker, the attacker won't be able to pop it very far or the defender will beat him to the ball. Second Attackers and Third Attackers must move up with the ball to support the First Attacker. If a defender gets the ball, the attackers must pressure the defender to try to win back the ball. If they can cause a turnover, they may have a scoring opportunity. (See "Through Ball", "Hopped Pass", "Creating Space", "Verbal Signals", "First Attacker" & "Pass").

Passing On
When a defender turns over responsibility for marking an attacker to a teammate, usually because the attacker leaves one defender's zone & enters a different defender's zone.

See "Fouls" and "Penalty Box".

Penalty Area
(aka "Penalty Box", "Box" or "Eighteen"). See "Penalty Box".

Penalty Box
(aka Penalty Area, "Box" or "Eighteen"). The large box in front of the goal in which the goalkeeper can touch the ball with hands. The half circle at the top of this box is the Penalty Box Arc. Size will vary by age group & your club rules. On adult sized fields, the Penalty Box extends 18 yards from the Goal Line into the field. For dimensions go to "Laws of the Game" at

Penalty Box Arc
(aka The "D"). See "Penalty Box"

Penalty Kick
(aka "Spot Kick"). A "penalty kick" or "PK", is a special type of direct free kick. When a player commits any of the 10 "Direct Free Kick Fouls" within his own Penalty Box, the other team is given a Penalty Kick. On a PK, a player from the fouled team (the coach can choose who, but it is nice to choose the player who was fouled) gets a free shot at goal from the "Penalty Mark" (which is 12 yards out for U-12 & older; less for U-8 & U-10) with only the goalkeeper to stop the shot. All other players must stay outside the Penalty Box & the Penalty Box Arc until it is kicked. The kick must go forward & once "in play" (i.e., once the ball moves) any player other than the kicker may then touch the ball. The goalkeeper must stay on the goal line until the ball is kicked, but he can move laterally along the line. The goalkeeper cannot take actions (such as waving his arms or yelling) to try to intentionally distract the kicker because that would be "unsporting", nor can the kicker start his run & then stop for the purpose of faking the Goalkeeper, for the same reason.

(aka Training Vests or Bibs) A mesh or nylon practice vest used to identify teams during practice.

English term for any type of sports field.

(e.g., "at the instant the ball is played" or "after the ball has been played"). Refers to a pass or kick & not to dribbling & not to a player without the ball. The term "played" is critical to the definition of "offside". (See "Late Tackle" & "Offside").

The rules, which are called the "Laws of the Game," call for 11 players per side, although a team can play with as few as 7. However, most youth leagues play with fewer than 11 until age 12 or 14. Contact your soccer association to discuss their rules or go to "Laws of the Game" at

Playing Distance
Within 3 feet of the ball. (Several rules make reference to "Playing Distance" without defining it; "Obstruction" & "Shoulder Charge", for example).

Pop It
A verbal signal for "Pass To Yourself". See "Pass To Yourself" & "Verbal Signals".

See "Forwards" (F), "Fullbacks" (FB), "Midfielders" (MF), "Goalkeeper" (GK), and "Stopper" (S) & "Sweeper" (SW). LF is Left F, CF is Center F, RF is Right F, etc. In designating positions, as you face the other team's goal, Right (e.g., RMF) is to your right.

Possession Style
An "indirect" style of play that emphasizes ball control and many short passes, as opposed to long airballs. The argument in favor of this style is that it teaches players to control the ball. The argument against overemphasis on this style is that players can lose sight of the real objective, which is to score, and not to just see how many consecutive passes can be made (i.e, a team should possess the ball in order to score, but the objective is to score and not to just possess the ball). Most Recreational teams cannot be successful trying to play a possession style because they aren't capable of making 7-10 consecutive passes under pressure. Some people think "Possession Soccer" cannot be combined with "Attacking Soccer" (meaning a more direct style that uses long passes and long "over-the-top" airballs), but that is not true. In fact, the two styles can be effectively combined. For example, the Amsterdam professional team Ajax (pronounced "eye' ax") does so, often playing a series of short passes in the "middle third" (in order to lull the opponent and to give their Forwards time to go forward) and then suddenly sending a long airball into the Penalty Box. See "Styles of Play", "Formations" and "Attacking Plan" for more information and attacking styles more suitable for recreational teams.

Post Line
An imaginary line extending perpendicular from a goal post. This is a useful term when describing positioning.

Power Shot
(aka "Drive"). See "Drive".

When a team "Pushes Up", it is similar to a "press" in basketball & there are special tactics for "beating the press". (See "Push Up").

There must be pressure on the ball any time it is in scoring range or close enough to your goal that it could be centered (or crossed) to the front of the goal. Over 50% of goals scored occur when there is a lack of pressure on the ball. Pressure slows down the attack & makes it much more difficult to get a clear shot on goal or to deliver a good pass into the center. You should also teach your forwards & MF's to pressure the ball to try to win it back any time it is near the other team's goal. For example, they should aggressively double-team the ballhandler to try to win the ball back after a turnover near the other team's goal. This can be a great scoring opportunity if you can win the ball &, if you accidentally foul, a free kick is too far away from your goal to score. (See "Zone Defense", "Mark The Ball" & "First Defender").

Professional Foul
(aka "Tactical Foul"). An intentional foul for the purpose of stopping the attacker from breaking away to goal or to prevent a scoring opportunity. Punishable by a yellow card or red card. Also called a tactical foul.

See "Relegation".

See "Checking Off", "Hooking Run" and "Show".

(aka "Drag Back"). A pullback is executed by placing the bottom of the foot on the ball, rolling it (or flicking it) backward, and turning with it. It is a way to quickly reverse direction. Every player U-8 & older should know how to do a pullback. A "Stop/Turn" also uses the bottom of the foot to stop the ball but doesn't pull the ball back. (See "Stop/Turn"). Other primary methods of turning include the Outside-of-foot Hook and the Inside-of -foot Hook, which is also called a "Cutback".

The key to consistent punting is to face the target "square" & a consistent drop. Children's hands are small. Teach your young goalkeepers to hold the ball with 2 hands, fully extend the arms & drop the ball from waist height. This will result in a consistent drop. If punts are too low (not enough height) it means the ball is being contacted too low. If too much height & not enough distance, it is being contacted too high. The goalkeeper has six seconds after picking up the ball to punt it or release it. He is allowed to pick it up, run with it and then punt, throw it, or drop it and dribble or kick it. However, he cannot touch it with his hands outside the "Penalty Box" and once he drops it he can't touch it again with his hands until an opponent has touched it. (See "Fouls, Indirect", Distribute", "Goalkeeper" & "Penalty Box").

Push Pass
The most important and most frequently used pass. Made with the inside-of-foot & called a push pass because of the long follow-through which sometimes looks like pushing the ball. The ball is struck with the part of the foot under the anklebone. This is the most accurate pass but best for short passes that stay on the ground. This pass is accurate because it is easy for the passer to lock his ankle. Key teaching points are to have the player face the target and square up so he, the ball & the target are in a straight line, keep both knees slightly bent, pull up the toes so the kicking foot is parallel to the ground, lock the ankle on contact and follow through toward the target. An advantage of this pass is that when receiving the ball the leg will stop the ball if it takes an unexpected bounce. (See "Toe Kick", "Inside-of-Foot Pass")

Push Up
The term "push up" refers to fullbacks or midfielders moving forward toward the halfway line. In certain formations and if your team has speed and stamina, you should "push up" when you attack or any time the ball is near the other team's Penalty Box, even if the other team has the ball, so you can support your attack or put pressure on the ball. To build an attack (especially on a large field) it is an advantage to have everyone, including the defenders, shift with the ball. This allows your team to keep "shape" so there is "support". Moving the fullbacks up also has the advantage of keeping the other team away from your goal because they will be "offside" if they go past the last defender before the ball passes him. This keeps the attackers out of scoring range, but defenders must be quick to fall back if the ball gets past them. This is why some teams use a "Sweeper". A Sweeper is a very fast player with good endurance who is not afraid to make contact to stop the ball & clear it. The Sweeper will play slightly behind the fullbacks or as a Center Fullback with a "Stopper' in front of him. (The Stopper doesn't have to be as fast, but must be tough and able to stop the ball). The Sweeper will run down any through balls or breakaways and kick the ball out of bounds over the side line to slow down the other team's attack so your team will have time to recover. If your fullbacks are slow and you want to push them up when you attack, consider using a Sweeper. Another alternative is a 3-2-2-3 formation, as described in "Formations" and "Attacking Plan".
Once a team is "pushed up", the FB's won't automatically fall back when they lose the ball but may stay pushed up to apply pressure & try to steal the ball back. This is kind of like a defensive "press" in basketball & it is hard to dribble thru these FB's when they are pushed up. The way to break thru & beat the "press" is by playing "through balls", "give & go's" & "passing to yourself". If your opponent's FB's are pushed up, it creates the opportunity for a fastbreak counterattack. In recreational soccer it is best to not push up if you play on a long field and the other teams Forwards are faster than your Fullbacks. An alternative is to use a formation that creates more depth, such as a 3-2-2-3 and to "defend deep".

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