The Secret Language of Youth Soccer

Every culture has its own language and norms — including youth soccer. Here’s a primer.

Ellen Lee

| 4 min read

Canva

Nutmeg. Daisy picker. The blob. If you’ve ever sat on the sidelines of a soccer game and felt confused by the chatter (or, ahem, the yelling), we’re here to help.

Yes, the world of youth soccer has its own special language, a shorthand for everything you might see on or off the field. Some of the words are legit terms that might confuse first-timers; some are just in-speak or slang. To translate, we consulted coaches, parents and players for the words and expressions they’ve been known to use. (Special thanks to Vince Ganzberg of United Soccer Coaches).

Of course, just as how we talk varies from region to region, so does the language of soccer. So while some of these terms may not be immediately familiar, their meaning will surely resonate.   

AYSO. You might think that AYSO stands for “American Youth Soccer Organization,” the national youth soccer program based in Southern California. But you’d only be half-right. 

It actually stands for All Your Saturdays Occupied. Once your child joins a soccer league, you’ll find that your Saturdays — and some Sundays — will be spent driving to and from soccer games or tournaments, and sitting with your newfound friends on the sidelines. 

THE BLOB (a.k.a BEEHIVE SOCCER or THE SWARM). When a pack of kids chase after the soccer ball all together, resembling a blob or a swarm of bees. Commonly seen among the youngest players. Usually results in a coach reminding the players to spread out. 

CAN-CAN. When a player lifts his or her legs a little too wildly when trying to catch a ball mid-air — like a can-can dancer. Typically not an effective move.

CHERRY PICKER. A player who waits near the goal for a teammate to pass the ball and score. Not to be confused with a daisy-picker. (See below.)

DAISY PICKER (a.k.a CLOUD WATCHER or FLOWER PICKER). A player who prefers to look for flowers or stare at the sky instead of play soccer — or perhaps one who is easily distracted by their surroundings.

GRANDMA KICK. The act of kicking the ball as hard and as far as possible without regard to where it should go. While it usually results in giving the ball up to the other team, inexperienced kids — and the grandparents on the sidelines who are just there to cheer — love this move. Coaches and teammates, not so much.  

HUMAN PYLON. A player who stands on the field and doesn’t move. At all.

THE LEAGUE OF NO-KNEES. When the standard-issue soccer uniform and socks are so oversized that they blend together visually, making young players look as though they have no knees

NUTMEG. Not the spice but a pretty sweet soccer move — when a player kicks the ball through a defender’s legs, then continues to dribble the ball down the field.  Note: At the younger ages, it’s not always on purpose.

PARENT TUNNEL. When, after a game, parents stand in two lines and join hands to form a human tunnel for kids to run through. Even better when both teams join in. Good game, everyone! A MOJO favorite. 

PINNIES. People will call practice jerseys pennies, but, we promise, it’s pinnies — short for the British term “pinafores.” 

SAY NO TO THE TOE. Simply put: Don’t kick with the toe. 

VOLUNTOLD. A strongly worded request to a parent. Usually results in a parent being tasked to coach, manage the team, referee, set up equipment or pick up snacks. You’re welcome? 

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