Where can you play pick-up soccer? Soccer can be played almost any time on almost any surface of almost any size—with or without adult supervision. Almost anything can be used as a goal: fixed goals, portable goals, cones, flags, t-shirts, soda cans, lines on a wall, etc. Field size and lines are optional.
To help bring the pickup experience to players in your town we include we list a few different venues for pickup play, along with tips to set up games. Coaches can use their imagination to dream about many more.
Neighborhood soccer If your yard is big enough for small-sided play or if there is a grassy patch in your neighborhood, it’s game on! Kids can play 24-7, on-demand, without rigid schedules, and for as long as they want. Former U.S. National Team player and current D.C. United coach Ben Olsen once told me that he developed his skills and fitness playing 1v1 against his brother in the back yard until they collapsed.
- When kids argue or get restless at home, send them outside with a soccer ball to burn off energy. And don’t hesitate to call their friends!
- If there aren’t enough players for a game, go outside with the child. You can play 1v1, pass the ball around or take shots on each other. Any dynamic contact with the ball will help players develop while their opponents are resting.
Schoolyards are the most underutilized pick-up venues in the United States. The kids are already on-site, so there are no transportation problems. Below are a few activities that can keep kids kicking throughout the school year:
- After-school play
- Recess games
- Indoor games in the gym
To combine a productive academic environment with an enjoyable soccer experience, organizers can:
- Set up after-school soccer programs that combine play with homework and academic help.
- Pop in to help organize and monitor pick-up play at recess.
- Be sure to create different levels of play that allow players particpate at their comfort levels.
- Once kids learn how to organize themselves head off to set up recess soccer activities at another school.
Comment: Pick-up soccer and academics are a natural fit. Most teachers and administrators would be happy to support an activity that keeps children active, fights childhood obesity, enchances social skills and promotes healthy brains.
Youth and Community Organizations
Soccer can be a healthy addition to any youth program that promotes physical, social and educational development through multiple activities.
- Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts
- Daycare and aftercare
- Daycamps and overnight camps
- Rec centers
Indoor soccer arenas It’s hard to imagine a better venue for unstructured play. With bathrooms, snack bars and other amenities, indoor facilities give players a chance to play hang around and play again, with few adult-imposed restrictions.
Tips Work with your indoor facility to set up weekly drop-in play. Low cost drop-in fees and a high volume of pariticants make indoor owners and players happy.
Beach Soccer While the Brazilians made beach soccer famous, the United States has much more coastline and lakes.
Tips Next time you go to the beach, take a soccer ball and start your own game.
The potential of pick-up soccer
Some of the greatest players in the world grew up playing soccer in streets, alleys, vacant lots, beaches and other makeshift venues that hardly resemble the immaculate soccer complexes that dot the United States. In much of the world, pick-up soccer is accessible every day of the week. With an incredibly large and unique variety of venues and facilities, the United States could create some of the greatest pick-up environments in the world. All we need to do is identify these venues, fill them with energetic kids, and get the games going.