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Officiating Spring Soccer

A Guide to Refereeing Davis AYSO Spring Soccer

By Mike Goodison, (former) Director of Referee Instruction

March 2007

When refereeing Davis spring AYSO soccer think of two words: 1. Informal, and 2. Educational.    Spring is a fun, informal season where you, the referee, can play a large role in the kids having fun and learning a bit more about the rules. These games can almost be described as “pickup games” in terms of the approach and demeanor of the games.  Many times you will find one or more teams showing up with a bare minimum number of players or less for the game. Your objective as a referee is to make that game happen! Coaches are encouraged to loan players to their opponent in order to play the game.  Please help and encourage this to happen. If less than the minimum number of kids shows up for both teams, get creative!  Shorten the field (go from goal line to halfway line or touch line to touch line in half the field) and play short sided games with whatever number of kids you have.  Use corner flags or cones for goals if you have to. Find other teams in the same predicament and combine teams.  The idea is to make these games happen.  Some of the most memorable and fun experiences you will ever have refereeing will be in the spring season.   

Start and End Games on Time:  For some reason, spring season is the worst for starting games on time.  Referees must be extra diligent in getting their games started and ended on time to allow the following game to begin at their scheduled time. 

Player/Field Safety Inspections: These still apply. Keep the game safe. If you have holes, sprinkler heads, etc. that can cause injury, have the coach mark the areas with flat cones and warn players to stay away from those areas.  If the ball finds its way to these areas and you see a danger for the players, blow your whistle and do a dropped ball away from the hazard.  Make sure the large metal goals are staked down.

Game Cards:  We do not use game cards in the spring. Coaches are responsible for making sure their kids play ¾ of the game.

Player I.D. Cards: None

Uniforms: Kids wear colored pinnies.  The Keeper (U10-U14) will typically wear a goal keeper jersey, but any contrasting shirt will do.

U8 Goals: U8 uses corner flags for goals. The distance should be about 9-10 feet between flags, about 3 large paces.  U6 will use pre-set PUGG Goals, and U10 and above use standard goals.

Keepers: No Keepers in U6 or U8.  Strongly encourage kids standing back in the goal acting as de facto Keepers to come out and play when the ball is no where near their goal.  Say “No Keepers allowed, come out and play”.  Enlist the aid of the coach to get his players away from the goal.  

Fouls/Infractions: The terms “trifling” and “educate” become our guides.  You will see many infractions from poor throw-ins, double touches, etc.  Stop and educate when necessary. Give second chances where you feel appropriate.  Let it go when trifling and the flow of the game is more important.  The spring season is the best time to briefly stop play and educate the kids and create those lasting teaching moments.  That’s part of the pleasure of refereeing in the spring. Just keep the balance between game flow and teaching in perspective. One caveat: Don’t Coach. Keep your teaching points to the laws of the game.

At higher levels, don’t be overly picky about throw-in infractions, keeper holding the ball more than 6 seconds or the keeper punting the ball slightly over the penalty area line. Many of these kids are new to soccer and coaching in the spring can be very limited with only 1 practice a week.  While we don’t want you to coach the kids, we do want you to educate them on the rules if they are breaking them.  For example, in a long ago spring game, I had a U14 girl Keeper block a shot and proceed to carry the ball 8 yards outside the top of the penalty area before she punted it back into play. I stopped play, educated, and let her punt the ball again but from the penalty area. Was my action legal? No!  Was it the right thing to do in the spring season? Yes! Be creative and use our referee motto of keeping the game Safe, Fair, and Fun to guide your actions.

U6-U8 Field Guide:   If refereeing these games, please refer to our U6-U8 Parent Referee Field Guide that can be found on our web page ( In U6-U8 don’t be afraid to blow your whistle when you see something dangerous, i.e. a player taking big high kicks at the ball and missing when opponents are nearby.  We typically expand the use and definition of the foul Dangerous Play at the lower levels to give you a tool to keep that game safe and to educate kids on playing the game in a safe manner.   

Blowout Games:  You will get a lot of blowouts in spring as it is very hard to balance teams.  The coaches are instructed to avoid running up the score and specifically that games resulting in 6 goal or greater differentials will result in a call from the Commissioner asking them to explain their actions. You can help and offer suggestions in these blowout games, such as, mixing and switching players at halftime; allow the coach to pull players off the field to give the other team a numerical advantage; in U8 where they use flags to mark the goals consult with the winning coach to get their agreement to narrow the goal distance of the goal that they will be attacking, and increase the space between the flags of their goal to allow for more scoring for the other team; suggest letting the weaker team play with more than the maximum number of players to hopefully find a better competitive balance.  99.9% of coaches in these blowout situations are trying to do everything they can to make the game more competitive and they will appreciate a referee who wants to help.    

And finally, be sure to smile and have fun. Your demeanor and approach to the game sets the tone for everyone.