AYSO Game Protocols for All

Here is what to expect and how to behave before, during, and after games for parents and coaches outside the normal Laws of the Game (please note that U5/U6 games have some differences). See our References at the bottom of this page for documentation on our game protocols summary. See the Preventing Blowouts page on how to avoid blowout games.

Before the game

  • Know your game schedule! Listed times are kickoff times (U8-U19).
  • Be on time! Arrive at the field at least 30 minutes before kickoff for U8-U19 for warm-up, 10 minutes before for U5/U6.
  • If you have net setup (first game of the day) arrive at least 45 minutes before kickoff.
  • All players must bring/wear uniforms (shirt, shorts, socks), shoes, shin guards (under socks!), and water. They should also bring their ball if the coach asks. Cleats are helpful but not required, any athletic shoe is ok.
  • Coaches must bring game cards with player names & numbers filled out.
  • Unless the field is closed, all teams should play every game! AYSO and our kids win when everyone plays. Winning or losing games matters much less then winning for our kids by giving them the opportunity to play. It takes a huge amount of volunteer work to organize our season and games. When one team skips a game because the game may be inconvenient, it disrespects the other team and all the volunteers who sweat hard to make it all happen.
  • If your player cannot make a game, let your coaches know as far in advance as possible. Coaches spend lots of time preparing for games. Please respect their time and effort by communicating to them clearly and in advance.
  • The scheduled snack family should bring snacks/drinks for players and referees at half time and after the game.
  • Do not bring pets to soccer games. Games are busy enough plus our local schools prohibit pets & dogs -- we risk losing our field permits otherwise -- no field, no games for anyone.
  • Parents should be positive with their players before, during, and after games.

During the game

  • Players play.
    • During the game, players are in charge of their own game. Let them play and communicate on their own.
    • For U5/U6 there are usually 2 games going in parallel with both teams split in half on 2 mini fields rather than just 1 game.
  • Coaches coach.
    • As much as possible coaches should observe and write down what players did well and what the team should work on for the next practice. Coaches should talk to the players who are sitting out so those players learn and are prepared for their turn to play. During U6 games, coaches may give some on-field instructions. At U8 and up it is best if coaches give few on-field instructions because the players learn more by doing things on their own. Practices/training sessions are the time for coaches to instruct players. Game time is the time for players to play the game on their own. Positive recognition and cheering are always appropriate.
    • Coaches MUST give their game lineup card (with all names and uniform numbers filled in) to the referee. The referee (or timekeeper) is responsible for marking which players are absent, sitting out, injured, etc. The coach should not mark this part of the game lineup card in advance. For lineup cards, see our Coach Resources page.
    • Coaches must exhibit exemplary behavior during games (players and parents copy what the coach does).
    • Coaches should do their utmost to avoid blowouts (winning by 5 or more goals). For more on this read Preventing Blowouts.
    • In AYSO substitutions are done half way through each half ("quarter subs") and at half time. Coaches should make sure quarter subs are fast! This is not a time for water breaks or giving coaching instructions -- these should be done before games, after games, and at half time. When the referee calls for substitutions, players who are subbing out should leave the field and sit with their coach as fast as they can while players subbing in move onto the field so play can be restarted as quickly as possible.
  • Parents cheer.
    • Parents should not give instructions to players on the field. Parents should cheer (loudly if they wish) and give positive recognition. Parents should have the players' water ready for players if they come to the touchline during the game to get water. Players cannot leave the field during the game, they must stay on the touchline while drinking but may get a drink whenever they want one.
  • Referees supervise the game.
    • The referee is in charge of the game while the coaches are in charge of their players and parents. During the game, the referee is THE final authority.
    • Referees are easy to identify from their brightly colored striped referee shirts. We have a number of youth referees and we must be especially respectful of them as they are doing all of us a tremendous service.
  • Soccer is a rough sport, bumps & bruises will happen -- that is why parents read and sign the AYSO medical release form.
  • If an incident happens on the field, it is the referee's job to handle it. Only call for the referee's attention if there is a serious life-threatening situation -- talk to your coach if you have concerns. Coaches should only enter the field of play if the referee asks them to attend to a player. Parents should only enter the field of play if a coach or referee ask for their assistance. Let the coaches and referees do their job -- they have been trained for this -- your coach is fully trained and AYSO licensed, yes?
  • Never yell or shout in anger. Parents and coaches are role models -- we expect them to act as such and demonstrate exemplary polite behavior and good sportsmanship for our players.
  • Stay at least 3 feet away from the touchline (side line). Only the lines person or assistant referee should be in this area. 
  • All coaches and players who are not playing should stay within their team boxes (if marked) or outside the touchline and between the two penalty areas (if not marked). 
  • All parents and spectators should stay on the spectator side of the field, which is opposite to the side of field that the coaches are on, and should stay outside the touchline and between the two penalty areas (if not marked). No spectators should be near or behind the goal unless they have the permission of the referee.
  • To enable kids to learn the game more easily, AYSO uses short sided games and a reduced set of rules that are sanctioned by FIFA. Please review these at our Laws of the Game page.

Post game ceremony

  • Immediately after the game, the coaches' primary responsibility is to quickly gather all their players for a cheer for the other team and then get them lined up for the post game greeting/handshake. Make sure all players and coaches politely greet the opposing team players and coaches to honor them for a game well played. Please also thank the referees.
  • Parents should form a celebration tunnel or line to congratulate their players for a game well played after the players have finished greeting the other team.

After the game

  • Parents and coaches should move their team away from the playing field so the next team can set up.
  • It is a best practice for coaches to have a post game chat with all the players immediately following the game while they eat their snack -- recognizing each and every player for one or two specific things that they did well during the game. Win or lose, the coach can make the team feel good about how they did during the game -- then the game is a big win for the kids regardless. Also while the kids are tired and eating is one of the best opportunities for the coach to talk to the team.
  • Parents and coaches should always stay positive. Coaches may mention a few things to work on as a team but should maintain a 5 to 1 ratio of positive comments to corrections.
  • Parents may address concerns with coaches and/or referees after all kid activity is complete and should do so out of hearing range of the kids. Also consider contacting the League Referee Administrator or Coach Administrator if significant issues remain.
  • If it is the last game of the day, parents should put away all the field equipment (including Kid Zone signs) while the coach conducts the post game chat.
  • Everyone (players, parents, coaches) should help clean up the field before the team departs. We always want to leave the field cleaner than when we arrived. We risk losing our field permits if we leave trash behind -- no field, no games for anyone.