What Is Pickup Soccer?

Pickup soccer is a game where players of all skill levels and ages are encouraged to play without the pressures of a coach or trainer. There can also often be some teaching on the field and new players are encouraged to join in. There are no expensive uniforms or soccer cleats needed. You can use bags for goals, shoes, or even portable goals. Ultimately though you just need something round and your feet.

In many cultures, kids grow up playing pickup soccer from the time they are able to walk. And sometimes sooner! Learning the game is like learning a language. The younger you start with basic soccer skills the more fluent you will become.

There Are Many Benefits To Playing Pickup Soccer.

Not just for youth players, but for all ages and skill levels:

  1. The biggest benefit is the game is the teacher. Players are able to experiment and learn from mistakes (and successes) and not be afraid to try new things. This is often not the case when there is a coach that is highlighting their mistakes. 
  2. Players will learn better communication. Since there is no coach that is barking orders from the sideline, players will need to communicate with each other on the field. This will help with awareness and understanding of the game.
  3. Short-sided soccer encourages personal growth with the soccer ball. When playing in small groups individual footwork, skills and tricks are encouraged. This will help build a player’s confidence and ability in handling the ball.
  4. In small-sided pickup games, you have to play at both ends of the field. This teaches players how to support each other and transition from offense to defense. Pickup soccer also highlights the need for width and depth on the field within the game.
  5. Playing pickup up as an adult is also a great way to stay in shape and give you a chance to play the beautiful game you love as long as you are physically capable. 

people playing pickup soccer outdoor

Pickup Soccer Is A Lifelong Passion

I grew up playing organized soccer and we would sometimes play pickup over the summer in the off-season. Back then there was actually an “off-season.” But it wasn’t as diverse as just showing up at a field and playing with whoever shows up. 

These days kids get into formal programs much sooner and they are more and more demanding, so often they never get the chance to play without the pressure of a coach or having to perform at a certain level. 

When I went to college I didn’t play on the college soccer team because well they didn’t have one. The school’s club team was very clicky and most of the guys grew up nearby and played together since they were kids. So I ended up playing pickup with a group of international students from all over the world. There were players from the Caribbean, a Russian, Africans, Germans, and other Europeans. I believe I learned some of my best soccer at this time. There was no pressure from coaches or the need to “win.”  

Plus, I played defense most of my life and wasn’t the most comfortable with carrying the ball, here I was free to try, make mistakes, and learn. I could work on how to do a body feint, how to shoot, just about anything I could think of. The soccer game was the teacher. We weren’t trying isolated technical skills, we were trying new moves and tricks in a competitive form. 

Get Out And Play Pickup!

Pickup soccer is a great way at any age to relieve stress, hang out with friends, and continue to learn and grow in the game you love playing. So get out there on the pitch, or try Futsal in a local gym. All you need is a soccer ball. Grab some portable soccer goals, or if you don’t have any just use bags or shirts as goalposts.

As long as you can still stand upright you can play soccer!

Bryan Coe

Bryan Coe

Bryan is the founder of The Soccer Handbook. He has been playing soccer since he was 8 years old, continues to play, and has also done his share of volunteer coaching over the years. Bryan’s mission is to help coaches coach better and help people enjoy the beautiful game throughout their lives.


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