Rules of the Game

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With no set positions or referees, pickup soccer is like a utopian society blending different ages, classes, national origins, playing styles and trash talk. It's my decompression chamber: I spend all day at my desk thinking, thinking, thinking. The pickup game is where I go to clear my head and just react.

But every World Cup, our games get flooded with well-meaning, but inexperienced players showing up at the field, especially since the growth of shared-interest sites like Meetup. I see it happen every four years: the number of players increases and so do the tensions. So, next time you're driving around and you see a bunch of out-of-shape guys and girls chasing a soccer ball, heed these tips before you jump in.

Teams are split by shirt color, so always bring a white and dark jersey. No stripes. No greys. No baby blues.

OK. You finally got the ball, you shot, you missed. While you're agonizing, there'll be 15 of us standing around, waiting for you to get the ball. Chase your shot. It's good etiquette.

Also, stay on your feet. Slidetackles are fine in leagues or on XBOX, but in pickup games it's discouraged and often unnecessary. You may have won the ball, but you also took out a software engineer whose only crime was crossing your path.


A pickup game is geared towards team play, which means letting everyone get a touch on the ball. So if you have dreams of dribbling the length of the field, let it go. Nobody likes a ball hog. And keep the fancy step-over moves confined to your backyard. Keep it simple for your own safety, and the sanity of others.

A biggie is to know your limits. I've seen new players get hurt within the first 10 minutes, either because they're out of shape or they haven't adapted to the rhythm of the game. If that's you, stay back and play defense until you feel confident enough to move forward.

Most of all have fun. New players are welcome because they share the same enthusiasm for the game. As in soccer, as in life: Show respect. Share the ball. And always chase your shot.
With a Perspective, this is Todd Inoue.
Todd Inoue plays pickup soccer regularly in the South Bay.