There is no better way to enjoy the “beautiful game” than playing pickup soccer.
Pickup soccer is a way for soccer fans to play with friends or other soccer enthusiasts in your community. Usually, there is no restriction on age or gender, and is mainly geared toward building local soccer communities. A strong emphasis is placed on creating a fun and learning environment.
Let’s explore everything you need to know about pickup soccer.
Who Can Play Pickup Soccer?
Anyone is welcome to play pickup soccer. Games are usually held in local community parks or sports complexes. There is usually no age or gender restriction.
In the United States, soccer is still not as popular when compared to Basketball, and American Football. Therefore, it is to be expected that a large portion of your local community may be uninterested in playing and much less learning the sport.
Because of this fact, local soccer communities create a strong emphasis on allowing anyone that is interested to participate in pickup soccer games. There is currently a strong push to grow the popularity of soccer in the US. Many know that one of the easiest ways is to create easy opportunities for people to play and experience the sport.
Getting Started: Essential Pickup Soccer Gear
The beautiful thing about pickup soccer is that you really don’t need any special gear. The game of soccer is played worldwide and most people play without any equipment. As long as you have a group of friends, a soccer ball (or any ball really), and a place to run around, you are good to go.
You can realistically use shirts, water bottles, or existing trees to create a goal. You can wear regular tennis shoes or just run around barefoot. And it can be played anywhere. At a local park or in your backyard.
However, it would greatly benefit you to purchase some essential gear. Before spending money though, I would encourage you to play a couple of pickup games to determine if you even like the sport.
Staying hydrated is very important. Although most local parks and sports complexes have water fountains, ensure proper hydration by bringing your own water bottle.
You can always just add water, I recommend spring water over purified, or you can add a liquid that has electrolytes such as coconut water or body armor.
Staying hydrated keeps you fresh and prevents cramps.
Soccer Cleats definitely will allow you to perform at a higher level when compared to regular shoes.
They will prevent slipping and give you better traction when stopping and accelerating. Also, the surface of soccer cleats is engineered to provide better touch and dribbling of a soccer ball.
Shin Guards & High Socks
Shin guards are extremely important when playing soccer. They protect your shins while playing.
Opponents are constantly attempting to steal the ball from you when you have possession. It could lead to a player kicking you in the area of your shin which could cause injury and extreme pain.
High socks are necessary to cover the shin guards and keep them in place.
There are many soccer balls to pick from but any will do. The entry-level soccer balls are made of synthetic materials that get the job done but are not as good as the higher-end soccer balls.
High-end soccer balls usually have more padding and are made with higher-quality materials. This upgrade usually leads to a ball that allows better dribbling and touch, along with more accurate passes, and shots.
Showing up to a park while holding all your gear can be quite cumbersome. Easily fix that problem by purchasing a soccer backpack. They have plenty of compartments that are specifically made for the sport of soccer.
You can easily place all your soccer gear in the bag and throw it over your shoulder.
Soccer Pinnies (Bibs)
Soccer pinnies, also known as bibs, are colorful throw-over jerseys that soccer players wear over their shirts. You will usually find sets of soccer pinnies in a specific color. This is not necessary to play, however, but it will help differentiate the players from each team.
Portable Soccer Nets
Although most local parks and sports complexes have permanent soccer goals this is not always the case.
Having a couple of portable soccer nets allows for easy assembly and disassembly, along with transport.
Finding Pickup Soccer Games Near You
Finding pickup soccer games in today’s age is easier than ever. You can simply conduct an online search, look up local Facebook groups, or just ask local community parks or sports complexes.
You can start by conducting an online search using keywords such as “local pickup soccer games” or pickup soccer games near me”. Search engines will generate multiple options that you can further explore.
Facebook is a great resource when looking for pickup soccer games. Usually, local pickup soccer groups will create a page or group where you can join and get up-to-date info on future gatherings.
Event Specific Websites
Meetup.com is a great website where many local soccer pickup groups are found. Simply visit the site and use their internal search engine along with entering your location. The website will generate all the available groups in your area that you can join.
Local Sports Complexes & Community Centers
Use any web search engine to locate your local sports complexes and/or community centers. Once you have a list you can simply call them individually and ask if they have pickup soccer games during the week.
Word of Mouth
Word of mouth is usually an easy way to determine if there are any local pickup soccer games in your area. If you have friends or co-workers who love to play soccer just ask them.
Or, you may not even need to ask. They may already be a part of a group and may invite you.
Preparing for Pickup Soccer: Warm-up and Stretching
Proper warm-up and stretching routines should always be performed before playing any pickup soccer game.
This will help prevent injury and allow you to enjoy your time on the field.
Light jogging is always a great way to warm up. Just simply jog up and down the field a couple of times until you feel like you’re ready for stretching.
Jogging while dribbling a soccer ball is another great way to warm up. You can also pass with a friend or practice juggling the soccer ball.
Once your body and muscles are warmed up it is time for stretching. You should never stretch without warming up first. This could lead to injury.
You know your body best so definitely perform all the necessary stretches that you are comfortable with. But, at the very least these are the minimum stretches that you should perform.
Stand on one leg and bend your other knee until your heel is touching your glutes. Use your hand to hold the position. This will give your quads a really good stretch.
Afterward, switch legs and repeat.
Sit on the floor and keep one straight leg while the other is bent. Reach for the toes of the straightened leg to stretch your hamstring. Once you’re done, switch legs.
Stand and face against a wall. Place both hands on the wall and lean into it while keeping one foot straight and heel on the ground, and bending the other.
You should feel the calf muscle of the straightened leg being stretched. Afterward, switch legs.
Sit on the floor while the bottom of your feet are touching. Your legs should be bent in an outward direction. Grab your ankles and use your elbows to push down on your bent knees.
Pickup Soccer Rules
The number one rule in pickup soccer is to just have fun and enjoy yourself. However, there are some rules that should be followed so that the games remain fun and enjoyable.
No Slide Tackles
Slide tackles really shouldn’t be used when playing a friendly game of pickup soccer. They are very dangerous and can lead to serious injury.
Respect for All Skill Levels
Respecting any and all individuals that show up to play is a necessity. The purpose of pickup soccer is to meet new people and bring them together, not push people away.
Passing vs. Scoring
Team passing over scoring is definitely a big part of pickup soccer. It helps beginners learn the basics such as receiving the ball and passing the ball. Also, it encourages players to talk and communicate with each other.
Additionally, if you are playing a team that has inferior talent then beating them 20 to 0 would not really be an enjoyable event.
Call Your Fouls
Honesty is expected being that there are no referees during these games. This helps create a spirit of sportsmanship and respect among players.
Tips for Pickup Soccer
The best tip to know for pickup soccer is just to relax and enjoy the game. It should be a time of uniting with like-minded individuals and having a great time.
Take advantage of the beneficial exercise and the outdoors. Some sun, some fresh air, and laughs between friends always do the soul some good.
However, it is a game after all so there is a bit of competitiveness involved.
Communication in soccer is extremely important. It is a component that is not used as much as it should be.
It helps your teammates know where you are on the field and when you want the ball, how to locate the open teammate, and an array of other factors of the game.
Depending on how many players are on the field each team member should occupy a certain position.
To easily understand positions there are three main categories. Offensive players, midfield players, and defensive players along with a goalie.
Offensive players are attempting to score. Defensive players are attempting to defend their goal. And, midfield players connect the defensive players with the offensive players.
Your first touch is so important. Players at all levels do not practice improving their first touch as much as they should.
Your first touch is the foundation of every other component as it applies to managing a soccer ball with your feet.
A good first touch will allow the ball to strike a part of your foot when it is passed to you. Once it hits your foot the ball should not bounce off. It should stay within inches of your feet.
You won’t be a good passer or a good shooter until you develop a good first touch.
Soccer is a sport that requires constant movement. The majority of that movement is aerobic exercise because you are either jogging or running during the entirety of the game.
Because of this, you should have a decent level of endurance and stamina so you won’t get tired during the game.
Ball control is the next step after developing a good first touch. Dribbling the ball, passing, shooting, stopping, and cutting with the ball at your feet are the fundamental aspects of ball control.
It takes patience for you to develop good ball control but with constant practice, you will become better over time.
Strategies for Pickup Soccer
A game strategy should be used but remain flexible and loose. After all, it is just a pickup soccer game with the purpose of having fun and enjoying the time.
However, integrating some strategies will allow your team to have a better flow and control of the game.
Keep it Simple
Simplicity in the game of soccer is becoming a lost art. Teams are always wanting to move fast and hard and don’t have the required patience to stick with simple basic principles.
Examples of keeping it simple are:
- Dont force passes
- Move the ball down the field as a team
- Encourage midfielders to pass the ball back to defenders if the middle of the field is congested
Work on maintaining possession of the ball as a team. This requires good movement and good passing.
Do not force the ball into congested areas and wait for the opposing team to make mistakes so you can exploit them.
When you lose the ball have your team apply high pressure. By pressuring the opposing team you will cause them to make mistakes and lose possession of the ball.
Switching the play means passing the ball to a teammate who is on the other side of the field.
Because most players follow the ball more than following actual players, switching the play will allow open teammates to push the ball into open spaces.
The Social Benefits of Playing Pickup Soccer
There are so many social benefits to playing pickup-up soccer. It is a sport that is meant to bring people together and allow them to have a great time while doing it.
Soccer is still a growing sport in the United States. When community members come together to play and learn it allows for the sport to grow and become more popular.
Additionally, it allows community members to connect and unite as regular human beings. It nurtures a spirit of friendship, camaraderie, and unity.
In a world plagued with technological devices everywhere we go we have somewhat lost the art of social connection.
Pickup soccer games allow individuals to take a break from the bombardment of information and devices that surround us every single day.
It’s just a group of people playing a sport they love while interacting with each other in a physical way.
Diversity and Inclusivity
As stated before, pickup soccer should be open to everyone and anyone. Gender, race, and age should not play a factor.
It is an opportunity for lovers of the sport to come together, interact, and create great memories.
High levels of stress overwhelm the average American. Participating in pickup soccer games offers an opportunity to exercise and get your mind off of the troubling issues that you may encounter daily.
Soccer fans develop a great passion for the sport. Connecting with individuals who share a similar love and interest in the game is a great bonus.
Pickup soccer games allow you to meet new people who may end up becoming lifelong friends.
Pickup Soccer vs. Organized Leagues
The main difference between pickup soccer and organized leagues is that there is no specific set of rules that need to be followed.
Here are just a few rules that are required in organized leagues that don’t really have to apply to pickup soccer games.
- Usually organized leagues will require teams to have uniforms and designated coaching staff
- Games would need to be officiated by a team of referees
- Depending on age group, a specific number of players will be required to play on the field
- Games are timed
- Score is kept
Pickup soccer is a friendly game of soccer between friends and like-minded individuals who share a similar desire or love for the game. Pickup soccer games help build stronger and more united communities and allow the sport to continue growing in popularity.
Finding local pickup soccer games is very easy. You can utilize the internet, social media, or word of mouth to locate them. These events offer an opportunity for people of all ages, races, and gender groups to participate.
So what are you waiting for? Find a local pickup soccer game today and start connecting with people who love the sport just as much as you do.
If you have a recommended pickup soccer game group in your area then leave it in the comments below.