Ball Holders – A Vital Part of the High School Game

By: Dr. Joe Manjone, NISOA Interscholastic Repressentative

As indicated in rule 6.1.1 ball holders are required for every high school soccer game played. The referee, assistant referee or side referee is to review the ball holder duties with the ball holders prior to the start of the game as indicated in rule 5.2.3b.  Ball holders are to assist by carrying an extra game ball and retrieving ball which cross boundary lines as indicated in 6.1.2.  Ball holders are required in the high school game because there are numerous (sometimes as many as 50 or more) instances of balls crossing over the touchline or goal line during a high school game, and because the clock is running, the amount of time consumed by the ball being out of bounds could be as much as 10 minutes or even more.

The coverage area for two ball holders is one touch line and one half of each goal line. In some tournaments four or more ball holders may be used so the area of coverage can be divided. In the Alabama State High School Soccer Championships, six ball holders are used – two for each touch line and one for each goal line.

In the pre-game review with the ball holders, the referee conducting the review should tell the ball holders to stay up with play, and have the extra ball at the spot of the throw-in or kick as soon as possible after the ball goes out of bounds. If during the game, the ball holder is not keeping up or doing as asked, the referee can provide some verbal guidance, and if that doesn’t work, the ball holder should be replaced. On the other hand, if the ball holder is doing a good job, the referee should take the time to give praise.

If the home team does not have any ball holders to provide, the visiting team can be asked to provide them.  The procedure if neither team can provide ball holders depends on the ruling of the state in which the game is being played.  Some states require ball holders to be in place before a game can start.  If this is the case, ball holders will have to be found.  Sometimes JV players, players from the boys’ or girls’ team, substitutes, or even parents can be utilized. If your state allows games to start without ball holders, start the game, but file a report with your state office after the game is completed.

Ball holders are a vital part of the game. Require teams to have them and utilize them!