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Tophat Handbook

Welcome to Tophat Soccer!


We are pleased that you have decided to participate in what we hope will be a fun and rewarding soccer experience for you and your daughter. To assist you in getting better acquainted with the Tophat Soccer Club, we have prepared this Handbook.


The Tophat Soccer Club brings together parents with greatly differing levels of soccer sophistication. Parent experiences with soccer range from those who played soccer in college or beyond, to those with absolutely no real experience with or understanding of the world's most popular sport. For those of you who are less informed about the game of soccer, we have devoted a section of this Handbook to a mini-education in the rules of the game and standards of conduct for players and fans. For all parents, we have attempted to answer in this Handbook some of the recurring questions about the Club, its philosophy, and the Club policies regarding practice, try-outs, costs and many other things.


The sport of soccer is growing dramatically in this country (especially for girls), and every season brings new ideas at all levels. Therefore our philosophies are also continuing to evolve, and our policies, we hope, continue to be molded and reshaped in ways that will better serve the needs of each girl and of the Club as a whole. To some extent, and in order to fit peculiar circumstances, the policies of a particular team may vary somewhat from those set out in this Handbook. Look first and foremost to your Head Coach for direction.


We sincerely welcome your suggestions, as well as your participation in the workings of the Club. It takes a tremendous effort to accomplish all that must be done in order to sustain a successful soccer program--the care of the fields, tournament arrangements, uniform arrangements, state and local registrations, practice organization, and much more. Too often the responsibility falls on the shoulders of a very few. We always are looking for volunteers and earnestly solicit your participation. If you are willing, we have a job for you.


Please read carefully the information set out in this Handbook. Your familiarity with what is contained here will help insure that you and your daughter have a fun and rewarding Tophat Soccer experience.


Table of Contents

(click to go to that topic)


History, Purpose and Philosophy

Club Organization: Little Hatters, Tophatters

Little Hatters


Athena Level Teams

Tryout Schedule

Tryout Process


Team Organization

Practice Routine

Team Practice Rules

Uniform Policy

Equipment Bags

Game Day Preparation

Tophat Player Commitment

Tophat Player Commitment Letter

Tophat Coach Commitment Letter

Tophat Soccer Club Coaches Rules

• Tophat Indoor Soccer

• Tophat Drug and Alcohol Policy

• Procedures for Handling Problems

• Insurance Coverage

• Tophatter Home Games

•  The Tophat Fields

• Tophat Facility Rules

Benefits of Tournament Play

• Tournament Participation Requirements

Bad Weather Procedures

• What Does It Cost?

• Fund Raising

Soccer Calendar

•  Parent Conduct at Games

Official List of Approved Cheers

Official List of Prohibited Cheers

•  The Referees

• All-Star Players Deserve All-Star Parents

• Mini-Education in Soccer for Parents

• The Field of Play

• Laws of the Game

• Rule Modification for Younger Players


Club Organization: Little Hatters and Tophatters

The Tophat Soccer Club is a member league of the Georgia State Soccer Association (GSSA), which is recognized by the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) as the controlling authority for the development of youth soccer in the State of Georgia. The USSF is, in turn, a member of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA, the world-wide administrator of our sport, and the creator of the World Cup. All of our rules and policies are derived from the international FIFA rules with modifications to accommodate our youth players.


Girl’s soccer in the state of Georgia is governed by the rules of the Georgia Youth Soccer Association, and is divided into three categories, Athena, Academy and Recreational. The distinguishing factor is whether or not a tryout process is used to select the team; Athena and Academy teams are allowed to hold tryouts, while recreational teams are not. All soccer below the U-9 age level is designated Recreational, while U-9 and above has Athena, Academy and Recreational teams. At Tophat, selection to, or placement on teams is done at all levels by a committee of coaches known as the "Placement Committee." Prior to the Academy levels, the Little Hatter teams are organized by the Committee for the purpose of player development within the framework of team development. These teams are small and limited in number. The Little Hatter program ends at the U-9 level, after which the teams are designated Tophatters. Unlike some other clubs, the organization of teams by single age groups is stressed at all age levels.


Little Hatters

Our goal in the Little Hatter Program is to give each player the opportunity to develop a solid foundation of soccer skills. Small teams and small sided games are designed to ensure that every player participates fully in the game, touches the ball frequently and learns basic skills in the process. The teams are organized by the Tophat Placement Committee at the beginning of each season. At this level, no team standings are kept and keeping score in the games is discouraged.



The player's ability and desire to move to a level of soccer which makes more demands on her athletic abilities and heightens her skills will come as early as nine or ten, the youngest age at which a player can compete for a spot on a Tophat select team. Academy teams participate in our Player Development Program at Under-9, and move into the Athena Program at Under-13 through Under-19.  The Athena and Academy teams travel to compete against other teams from around the state and nation.


Some teams at Tophat do not go through the formal try-out process, and are able to compete in the state recreational program. Starting at the Under-10 age group, these teams also travel to play both league and tournament games.


Athena and Academy Level Teams

Selection to an Athena or Academy level team requires a full year commitment. Players are financially responsible for and expected to participate in the fall and spring seasons plus all of the team’s scheduled tournaments. Athena team selections are accomplished through a combination of summer try-outs, and coaching assessments throughout the year. Try-outs are open to all players, including players from other clubs, and each team will go through the try-out or re-selection process every summer.


All Tophat teams are known by the team members’ projected year of graduation from high school (e.g., the Tophatters-13 team, the Little Hatters-20 team, etc.).  There can be as many as three Athena level teams per age group (Gold, Navy and White), with the remaining players participating in our Club program.


Tryout Schedule

At the end of each Spring soccer season, the Tophat Soccer Club holds open try-outs for the next year's Athena and Academy level teams. Current club members and players who have not been members of Tophat teams are given the opportunity to compete for team positions. At Tophat, all players are required to try-out and play in their proper age group. Try-outs are governed by GSSA rules and must be completed in the early part of June.


The Tryout Process

At the beginning of the try-out sessions, the Club will hold an orientation session for those parents who are not familiar with the Club or with select soccer. The tryout sessions will be divided by age group, and will consist of drills, exercises and scrimmages designed to allow the Tophat Placement Committee to evaluate the skill, desire, attitude and potential of each player. As teams get older and more established, individual team try-out procedures may vary according to the needs of the team. Final player selections are made without regard to race, religion, creed, color, national or ethnic origin. Selection to a team one year does not guarantee that player a place on the team the following year.



The GSSA rules provide strict limitations on conversations with non-club members about a team’s selection process. These rules are designed to prevent the improper "recruiting" of players from other clubs, and they apply to coaches, parents and team members. Prior to the end of the spring season, it is improper to recruit a player from any other club. If you would like to share information about your team or its selection process with a member of another club, first check with your Tophat coach for guidance. The penalties for improper contacts with other team members or their parents can be severe.


Team Organization

The organization of soccer teams is necessarily built around the coaching staff. Tophat coaches, unlike coaches in some clubs, are considered part of the Club support structure, and they may change teams from time to time to meet the overall Club needs. This "team of Coaches" approach to soccer is a major asset of the Club. All Tophat coaches are there for the support of all Tophat teams. For this reason, we use a club-wide coaching concept, applicable to all ages, that is described in our Tophat Coaches Manual. Team play is a major objective, and individual players are trained within the team framework. Each team is organized as follows:


The Head Coach:  A Head Coach will be designated for each Tophat team. That Coach will have overall responsibility for the team, and he or she should be your first contact in the event of a problem. The coach is responsible for team discipline, player substitution, and game tactics. Other Tophat Coaches will participate, from time to time, in your team practices and games. The Tophat Soccer Club is proud of its Coaches, and we have made every effort to provide your daughters with the best-available teachers of the game. Please give the Coach your support and assistance.


Assistant Coaches:  It is desirable, although not always possible, to have at least one Assistant Coach for each team. In the Little Hatter program, the player’s attention span is so short that Assistant Coaches are essential if a practice is to be meaningful, and parents are encouraged to volunteer for this position. Soccer experience or knowledge is nice, but not necessary. We offer "on the job" training.


Team Manager: The Team Manager is an invaluable member of the team organization. At the Tophat level, the Manager handles many of the administrative aspects of the team, such as uniform orders, team telephone list, tournament travel plans, and other items to help the Coach with all of the time-consuming administrative details. If you are interested in becoming a Team Manager, or assisting the Team Manager, please contact your Coach.


Other Volunteers: As was mentioned in the introduction of this Handbook, the demands of running a successful soccer program are tremendous. If you have a skill, or no skill but a desire to serve, we have an opportunity for you! Some of the Tophat teams keep team statistics and a parent is "trainable" as a team statistician. Help in securing a team banner, responsibility for keeping and setting up a team tent , assisting with transportation, organizing game refreshments, volunteering as a chaperon during tournament trips, are just a few of the many ways in which a parent can make a very important contribution to a daughter's Tophat team.


Practice Routine

Without regular and proper practice, soccer skills and tactics cannot be mastered. We demand of the Tophat coaches a tremendous commitment of their time, and we expect the Tophat players to be willing to make the same commitment. We know that many of our players have other interests and demands on their time, but we believe it very important that you make every effort to have them attend each practice session. At an early stage in their development, these girls are capable of moving beyond "kick ball" and learning some good soccer skills. They will need those skills if their team is to be competitive. So please make every effort to arrange their schedules to allow time for soccer practice.


Tophatter teams generally will practice twice each week during the soccer season. Practices will begin usually in early-August and continue through the last game in mid-November or any tournament at the end of the Fall season. For the Spring season, practice will begin in mid-February. League games will begin approximately the second weekend in March and the Spring season will not end later than the Memorial Day weekend. The times and days of your team's practice will be set by the Club and by your daughter's Coach. Generally, your daughter's team will have one practice devoted principally to soccer skills, and one practice session during which team tactics are taught. Each of these sessions is important. Please send water in a plastic bottle with your daughter to each practice. It is important to replace liquids lost from perspiration. Also, please bring your Tophat bag and ball to each practice.


Team Practice Rules

We have very few Club rules, but there are one or two important Tophat team rules which relate to practice. New and old players should be aware of these rules:


It is important to come to practice regularly. You cannot miss practice or practice poorly and expect to improve. If you have a problem attending a practice, give your coach a call, in advance, if possible.



Proper practice means that you:

(a) Pay attention to the coaches in practice;

(b) Make an effort to improve your skills at practice;

(c) Practice at game speed (learning to do a skill in slow motion will not help in a game); and

(d) Do not distract others at practice (e.g., acting silly while attempting a drill is distracting to others).





Uniform Policy

Whenever a Tophat player is in uniform, she is representing the Club and she should wear the uniform properly and with pride. Please read and abide by the following guidelines:

1. Jerseys will always be tucked into shorts whenever you are wearing the uniform (not just during the game). Sliding pants should be the same color as the shorts and should not extend below the uniform shorts.


2. Uniform socks will be pulled up whenever you have them on. Shin guards must always be covered by socks.


3. Arrive at games fully dressed, with shoes on and tied.


4. Have your equipment bag with you at all practices and games. Put bags carefully in a row (numbers facing the field) on the sidelines at all games. Keep bags in a proper team location at practice.


5. Use saddle soap or leather protector on your shoes before every game; in other words, shine and take care of your shoes.


6. Bring your soccer ball to every practice and to every game.


7. Leave your rings, watches, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, other jewelry and hairpins (except for rubber bands or other elastic bands) at home or in your equipment bags.

Equipment Bags

The following items should be kept in your equipment bag at all times:

1. All alternate uniforms

2. Tophat soccer ball

3. Soccer shoes

4. Shin guards

5. Leather protector for shoes (mink oil)

6. Extra pair of socks

7. Hair repair items

8. Band aids, tape, bee sting ointment, Vaseline, sun screen, etc.( as needed)

Game Day Preparation

Preparing your child to do her best!  In the Tophat Commitment Letter, each player pledges that she will arrive at the game well rested, and mentally and physically prepared to play her best. Your daughter cannot keep that commitment if she does not get proper rest and has not eaten properly. Soccer is a very demanding sport. Your daughter can be prepared to do her best, to help her team, and less likely to suffer injury, if she observes a few basic guidelines:

  • Avoid spend-the-night parties on the night before a game. More than a few soccer games have been knowingly "forfeited" the night before the soccer match. Fatigue as a result of too little sleep also raises the risk of injury.

  • Build up body fluid before the game. Start drinking water as much as 24 hours before the game, and try to take in as much proper fluid as possible right up to game time.

  • East sensibly, especially on the day of a game. For instance, milk, peanuts or carbonated drinks before a game will shorten a player's wind.

  • Half-time refreshments should be limited to a moderate amount of water, or perhaps a very diluted Gatorade-type drink. Too much water, or any kind of food and drink containing sugar, will cause the blood to leave the muscles and travel to the stomach, causing your daughter to be sluggish in the second half. At the beginning of each season, your Coach or Team Manager will provide parents with a refreshment schedule. Each parent will be expected to share in the responsibility for seeing that proper refreshments and ice are available for each game.

  • Make certain that you have proper equipment, and bring them to each practice and game. Proper fitting shoes and shin guards are essential. Watches, jewelry, and barrettes should be left at home or in your Tophat bag. The Tophat uniform policy is set out in detail in this Handbook.

  • Arrive at each game in plenty of time to warm-up properly. The Coach will provide your team with a game schedule which will list the "Report Time" for each game. Please leave home in time to have your child at the game, fully dressed, and ready to warm-up substantially prior to game time. A pre-game warm-up to get an abundant flow of blood to the muscles, followed by sensible, slow stretching activities designed to increase flexibility and minimize the possibility of muscle pulls or injury, are of vital importance. It is estimated that about 1/3 of all sports injuries now occur in children age 5 to 14. Give your daughter every opportunity to avoid being a part of that statistic.

  • Be active in other areas, such as swimming and biking, that build stamina and strength. It can help to ward off injuries.

  • Treat minor injuries promptly and properly. For muscle strains and bruises, remember the principle of "R-I-C-E" -- Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Your team should arrange to have ice available at every game for quick application to twisted ankles or knees. Let your coach know before practice or a game of any condition that might affect your ability to play. Seek early medical help for physical problems that persist. Do not practice or play if you have reason to believe that it may aggravate an injury.

  • Call in advance to tell your Coach if you will miss a practice or game.

  • Bring your ball and Tophat bag to each practice and to each game.

Tophat Player Commitment

If your daughter is selected to become an Athena level player, she will be asked to sign a Player Commitment Letter. An example of that letter can be seen on the following page. As the Commitment Letter indicates, it is important that, before your daughter accepts our invitation, she understands that there are obligations which come with her becoming a member of a competitive soccer team. At this level of competition, success and fun on the soccer field do not come without some extra effort. The will to win is not enough; your daughter also must have the will to prepare to win. As a result, we ask each of our new players to formally acknowledge that, for her own good and for the good of the team, she will be expected to attend practice, to practice properly, and to do all of the other things which are necessary if she is to become a skilled soccer player and a contributing part of a competitive soccer team.

As a parent, we need your assistance in helping your daughter understand the nature of the commitment she is making and the importance of keeping that commitment. If you review with her the Commitment Letter, and treat it seriously, we believe that it will be something of value. Before your daughter can be accepted on a Tophat team, we must receive a copy of the Commitment Letter signed by the player and one of her parents.


Tophat Player Commitment Letter

Dear Player,


CONGRATULATIONS! You have been selected to become a member of the Tophat Soccer Club for the new Fall/Spring soccer season. Many girls try out each year for the Tophatter teams; you can be proud that the Tophatter coaches have invited you to become a part of this select soccer program.


As a member of the Tophat Soccer Club, you will play other select teams in the Metropolitan Atlanta area, participating in area (and perhaps national) tournaments with other competitive teams, and possibly competing for the State of Georgia championship in your age division. You will practice on what we believe to be the finest girls' practice facility in Atlanta area under the supervision of a group of dedicated coaches. We look forward to having you become a part of a fine soccer tradition.


Your being a member of the Tophat Soccer Club is an honor, but it also requires of you a special commitment. If you have been playing soccer at the recreational level, little may have been required of you. If you decide to move up to the more competitive, select level of youth soccer, you will be expected to make certain commitments to your coaches, to your team and to yourself.


At this level of competition, success and fun on the soccer field do not come without some extra effort. The will to win is not enough; you must also have the will to prepare to win. We are speaking of more than just the effort it takes to show up at the soccer field on the day of the game. We are talking now about the kind of effort that involves some hard work, some choices about the way in which you wish to spend your free time, and perhaps some sacrifices on your part. Before you accept this invitation to become part of the Tophat soccer program, consider carefully the following commitments which each Tophatter team member must make.


If you are not willing to make this commitment, then perhaps you should not move beyond recreational soccer. If you are willing to make this commitment, then we believe that we can help you become a better soccer player and a contributing member of a competitive soccer program. As coaches, we commit to you that we also will work hard to help you improve your skills, gain in your knowledge of the game, and make practices a worthwhile experience.

People very seldom are successful at anything unless they can have fun doing it. We will expect you to work hard, but we will make every effort to see to it that you have fun also.


We believe that many good soccer experiences lie ahead of you as a Tophatter. We hope that you will decide to sign the Tophat Commitment to Excellence and return it to us not later than the deadline date appearing on the registration form included with this letter. If we do not hear from you by this date, we cannot guarantee you that we will have an open slot on the team when the season begins. Your team coach will be in touch with you soon.

Here follows the player commitment letter.

As a Tophat player, I understand that the difference between being ordinary and being extra-ordinary is a little extra effort. I understand that wanting to win on the day of the game is worth nothing unless I have the will to prepare to win before the day of the game. So that I might be the best player and team member that I am capable of becoming, I promise to do the following.


1. I promise to arrange my schedule so that I can come to practice regularly and on time, and to participate in scheduled games and tournaments.

2. I promise to work hard at practice to improve my soccer skills and my understanding of the game.

3. I promise that, at practice, I will give the coaches my full attention. When the coaches are talking, I will stop talking, keep my ears open, and my eyes on the coaches. I will not distract others during the practice session.

4. I promise to do whatever is asked of me on the soccer field, without complaining, for the good of the team.

5. I promise always to encourage, and never to criticize, my teammates.

6. I promise always to hustle, and never to quit, until the game is over.

7. I promise to come to each game, on time, well rested, and with an attitude that says -- "It may be difficult, but I believe that we can win."





As a Tophat parent, I pledge my support for my daughter in meeting this commitment.



Tophat Coach Commitment Letter

As part of the Tophat commitment to excellence, we require that all of our coaches make the following commitment to the Club, its players and parents:

As a Tophatter Coach I recognize my responsibility to provide instruction and guidance which channels the individual efforts of players and parents into an extraordinary team experience. To achieve the goal of building a competitive and cohesive team, I promise the following:


To plan and supervise practice sessions that are fun and instructive.

To prepare for each game by creating a strategy suitable to the opponent.

Motivate and teach with positive reinforcement.

Treat players and parents with respect.

Observe and apply the rules of the Tophat Soccer Club and our team in an evenhanded manner.

Balance the desire to win with the goal of insuring that all players have the opportunity to play and contribute.

Tophat Soccer Club Coaches Rules

1. Attend all practices and games. If a conflict arises, insure that a suitable substitute has been arranged for and properly briefed.

2. Conduct yourself in a professional manner at all times.

3. Insure that players wear their uniforms in a proper and complete fashion. Socks should be pulled up and jerseys tucked in whenever in uniform, not just during the game.

4. No foul language or abusive conduct.

5. No smoking in the presence of players.

6. No alcoholic beverages in the presence of players.

7. When traveling with the team:

a. Remain aware of your players whereabouts and behavior.

b. Coaches must not share hotel rooms with girlfriends or boyfriends.

c. Set schedules and inform players of all activities.

d. Insure that all tournament check-ins are properly conducted.

8. Substitution policies:

a. During league play, each player must play half of the game (USYSA 50% rule) if they have satisfied the coach’s practice requirements. In addition, Tophat staff recommends that playing time be shared equally when game conditions permit, especially in the younger age groups. Tophat staff also recommends that players not be utilized in a single position. They must be taught the entire game of soccer.

b. During tournament play, the 50% rule sometimes does not apply, and the coach has the discretion to substitute as necessary.  However, the Tophat staff recommends that coaches follow the same policies that apply to league play except in extraordinary circumstances, because of the highly negative reactions that always accompany low playing time.  An attempt to play all players in each tournament game should be made, even if the 50% rule is not observed.

9. Tophat field usage policies:

a. All practices and games must be approved by the Tophat staff.

b. Practice spaces and times will normally be assigned by the club, and coaches are expected to cooperate in the use of field facilities.

c. All teams are responsible for cleaning up after practices or games, and for returning all equipment to its proper place.

d. All coaches are asked to help in monitoring the activities that take place at the Tophat field, and to assist in keeping our fields clean, safe and secure.

10. Tophat Soccer reserves the right to fine coaches or terminate contracts for missing practices or games, or for any unprofessional behavior.

Tophat Drug and Alcohol Policy

It is the firm commitment of the Tophat Soccer Club to take an active role in the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse. Our policy is no drugs, no alcohol, no smoking and no destructive behavior. We will involve ourselves with the player and parents any time that a situation has an impact on our Club or its members. It is important that we be able to trust our players to obey Club rules, because of the responsibilities that we assume when we travel. Violation of this policy may be the basis for suspension or dismissal from the team, or for requiring that a player return home early from an out-of -town tournament. As our players get older, they are expected to be positive role models for the younger girls, not only on the soccer field, but in all areas of social behavior.


Procedures for Handling Problems

The Tophat Discipline and Protest ("D&P") Committee is charged with the responsibility for investigating internal club complaints and disciplinary problems. When problems are referred to the Committee, a hearing may be held and appropriate remedial measures may be directed. Please look first to your Coach for the handling of any problems which you encounter. If, after consulting with the Coach, you still feel that additional attention to the problem is needed, then you may refer the matter to the D&P Committee. Your team manager can provide you with a D&P form. For the Committee to review any problem, it must be submitted in writing.


Insurance Coverage

The insurance provided through the Georgia State Soccer Association affiliation may change in its exact coverage from year to year. The precise terms of the insurance coverage are set out in a Master Policy available at the Georgia State Soccer Association. In general, the GSSA insurance provides coverage for all players registered with the United States Youth Soccer Association while participating in sanctioned play or practice under the supervision of an authorized official, while traveling directly to and from player practice, and while participating in other scheduled group activities under the direct supervision of an authorized official. The benefits provided include an accidental death benefit and accidental medical expense benefits. There is the expected amount of insurance exclusions, limitations, and mumbo-jumbo, but the policy seems to be a pretty good one. For current and more exact information, or if you have questions, contact your Coach or the Georgia State Soccer Association (770-452-0505).


Tophatter Home Games

The Tophat teams use several fields for their home games. The map below shows the location of the Tophat field and the field at Sutton Middle School. Proper parking at the field is always a concern, so check with your Coach for any special parking requirements both at home and away fields.


The Tophat Fields

The Tophat Soccer Club enjoys the finest, girls-only facility in the State of Georgia. The complex is located in north Buckhead, just two blocks west of Northside Drive, at 500 Fairfield Road.  We also use the soccer field at Sutton Middle School.


Tophat Facility Rules

We are proud of the Tophat facility. It has been established and is maintained through hard work. We hope that you, too, will take pride in these fields. To help us keep the fields in first-class condition, we ask that you always observe, and remind others to observe, a few special rules.

No pets are allowed on the fields.

Whatever you bring to the field, take it home with you at the end of the day. Do not leave trash on the facility grounds.

Please be considerate of Tophat field neighbors - we need their good will.

Please be especially careful and drive slowly when entering and leaving the facility.

Cars and bicycles should stay on the gravel drive and in the parking areas always. Take special precautions when the ground is wet.

Soccer nets and goals are expensive--treat them with respect.

Our fields are to be used only for Tophat sponsored activities and only by Tophat members.


Benefits Of Tournament Play

Tournament play is an integral part of competitive soccer. Tournaments give you the opportunity to play several games in a short period of time. That opportunity for frequent repetitions of skills and tactics is oftentimes the key to improvement for players and teams. Tournament play also helps to teach a team how to play and win in a pressure situation. In addition, it gives your daughter the opportunity to travel, and to meet soccer players in other cities and states. It also gives the Tophat coaching staff an opportunity to learn from other programs and to measure the progress of the Club's teaching efforts.


Tournament Participation Requirements

Because of the importance of tournament play to the development of a team, all Tophat players are expected to participate. This means that all players will share in team tournament expenses, unless they are injured and cannot attend. To aid you in planning, you should know that there are several major tournaments which take place every year and in which Tophat teams participate. Please plan your daughter's schedule so as to allow her to be available to participate in the following:


The Atlanta Cup Tournament (Labor Day Weekend) - All teams

This is Atlanta’s biggest and most prestigious tournament. It is an important step in preparing a team for the Fall soccer season. The tournament takes place at various locations in the Atlanta area, and traditionally falls on Saturday, Sunday and Monday of the Labor Day weekend in early September.


The WAGS Tournament (Columbus Day Weekend) - Gold teams

Each year, for the last several years, the Tophat Soccer Club has taken many of its select teams to Northern Virginia for the Washington Area Girls' Soccer (WAGS) League Annual Rael Vodicka Memorial Tournament. This tournament is the largest all-girls soccer tournament in the nation. Every Fall, nearly 400 girls' soccer teams gather in the Washington, DC area for this national tournament. The tournament presents a unique opportunity for girls from across the nation to compete with their peers in an outstanding soccer experience. In addition, we traditionally have been able to combine a successful soccer experience with educational side trips in the Washington, DC area. The younger Tophat teams can be hosted by local, Northern Virginia teams of their own age, with the Tophat players staying in pairs with a host soccer family, who is responsible for housing, meals and transportation to and from tournament games. The trip traditionally has been the highlight of the Fall soccer season.


State Cup Tournament (June) - Gold teams

The Open Cup Tournament for the U-18, U-17, U-16 and U-15 age groups is played at the end of the Fall season and is the means by which the Georgia State Championship teams are chosen each year. Beginning in mid-November, the tournament is played on successive weekends (except for Thanksgiving weekend). The tournament is played at various locations in the Atlanta area, and the exact schedules for tournament play are not fixed until early November. At the end of the Spring season, Open Cup Tournament play is scheduled for the U-19 and U-14 age groups. The winners of the Open Cup Tournament advance to competition at the regional level against other state champions representing Florida, South Texas, North Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas. The regional tournament traditionally takes place during mid-June, and is hosted by a different state each year.


Other Tournament Possibilities

Parents should look to the Head Coach for more specific information about tournament possibilities. In addition to the primary tournaments identified above, Tophat teams have also participated in tournaments on Thanksgiving weekend, Memorial Day weekend, during Christmas holidays, and in a variety of summer tournaments. In connection with tournament play, your team may be allowed to take up to three guest players from other teams within the Club or from outside teams. In addition, players from our Club are sometimes invited to appear as guest players with other clubs.

Caution: You must consult your coach (1) before speaking to a non-Tophat player about appearing as a guest player with your team, or (2) before you talk with another team about being a guest with them.


Bad Weather Procedures

Tophat Weather Hotline Number: (770) 410-8428 This is your first choice and best source for information.

First check the special Tophat Hotline number for information on game or practice cancellations, field closure and other special messages. Do not leave messages on this line, use the Tophat office number: (404) 351-4466.


Practice Sessions

Please remember that, although it may be raining in your part of town, it may not be raining at the Tophat practice fields. Please check the Weather Hotline, your individual team Hotline, or with your Team Manager when in doubt. The Head Coach should call the Team Manager to report rain-outs. When in doubt, please show up for practice. At times, your Coach may schedule an indoor practice or soccer video session in lieu of an outdoor practice.



Even if it is raining, the games will be played unless there is a threat of lightning or the fields have been closed. This applies to even the youngest age groups. Soccer is a game that is played in all weather conditions, and it is necessary that all players and parents learn that this is part of the commitment to the game. It is the responsibility of the home team to advise the visiting team coach of any game cancellations. Again, please contact your Coach or Team Manager if you have doubts. If you have not heard from your Coach or Team Manager, please show up at the game to insure that your team does not forfeit.


What Does It Cost?

One of the many reasons why soccer ranks second in popularity among all team sports in the United States with kids 6 to 11 years of age is that soccer is a relatively inexpensive sport. Nevertheless, as you move into select soccer, parents can expect higher costs than those encountered at the recreational soccer level. With the support of a great many volunteers, including Coaches, parents and sponsors, the cost of being a Tophat player is much less than might be expected. To aid you in your planning, we are providing the following, general outline of the types of costs which can be expected. Because these costs vary from year to year, it is impossible to provide specific cost information. However, at the beginning of each soccer season (Spring and Fall), you will be provided with an itemized statement.


(1) Tophat Club Fees: Fees are paid each fall and spring and cover a long list of expenses.

Some of these include field maintenance and improvement, office and coaching staff, property taxes, office space, equipment, etc. We are a non-profit corporation with no city or county support. We make every effort possible to keep our expenses at a reasonable level.

(2) GSSA Charges: Each player is required to be registered with the Georgia State Soccer Association. The services provided by the GSSA are set out elsewhere in this Handbook. The annual fee for GSSA affiliation is presently about $28.00.

(3) Uniforms: We are proud of our Tophat uniforms. You can expect to buy a Tophat uniform, consisting of the Navy uniform and the Gold uniform, plus a White alternate jersey.  Generally, home teams are required to change into an alternate uniform when their uniform is too similar to the opponent's.

(4) Tournaments: By careful planning (e.g., early airline reservations), and by taking advantage of volunteered transportation, the cost of tournament play can be greatly reduced. In addition, transportation costs, tournament fees, patches and coaches expenses must also be shared by the team. With respect to local tournaments, and at the WAGS tournament where housing is provided, housing cost can be avoided. If your team participates in other distant tournaments, hotel housing costs for the team and coach are split among the players.

(5) Birth Certificates: In order to participate in tournament play, it is necessary for us to have a copy of your daughter's certified birth certificate. We ask that you submit this birth certificate at the beginning of the Fall season, along with your payment of the Tophat fees.

(6) Equipment: At the select level of soccer, shoes are vitally important to a player's performance. At the Athena level, both cleats and turfs are strongly recommended to accommodate varying weather conditions and differences in playing surfaces.

(7) Other Incidental Costs: At different times during the year, the Club will offer players the opportunity to purchase sweatsuits, shirts, and other articles of clothing which bear the Tophat logo. Again, these purchases are strictly optional.

(8) Scholarship Possibilities: If your daughter needs financial assistance or special arrangements in meeting Club costs, you should submit a written request to the Tophat office for consideration.


Fund Raising

Soccer rightfully enjoys a reputation as a sport less costly than many others.  And yet, when you reach the level of select soccer, you necessarily begin to experience the need for better facilities, the cost of traveling to and playing in tournaments, extra uniform costs, more and better shoes, and so on.

The battle to meet the rising costs of building and sustaining a top flight soccer program is constant.  On a few occasions, we have benefited from the generosity of contributing businesses and individual friends of the Club. We need that type of special financial assistance on an ongoing basis.  If you or your company could help us in meeting this challenge, please let us hear from you.  The Tophat Soccer Club is a Section 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and contributions to the Club are tax deductible.

Teams are encouraged to explore fund raising possibilities that will help defray the cost of tournament travel and play. At the same time, the club has an interest in assuring that fund raising efforts do not conflict with club activities or policies, or with the activities of other Tophat teams. As a result, all fund raising activities should be cleared in advance with the club.


Soccer Calendar

Each year is different from the previous, but a typical annual calendar might look like that shown following.

July Deadline for Fall Registration, Return of Commitment Letters, and Fall Fees

Early August Fall Practice Begins

Late-August Tophat Invitational Tournament

Labor Day Weekend Atlanta Cup Tournament

Second Weekend in September (Approximately) Fall Season Begins

Columbus Day Weekend WAGS Tournament

January Deadline for Spring Season Registration

Early February Spring Practice Begins

Early March Spring Season Opens

Late May State Cup Tournament (U-19 thru 13)

Late-May thru June Tophat team tryouts

June Regional Tournament

Parent Conduct at Games

Soccer games are as exciting for some parents as they are for their daughters. That's great. For many of the spectators, however, soccer is a sport about which they know very little. They want to support the team, cheer for the team, and encourage their child. Occasionally, this enthusiasm combines with a parent's lack of familiarity with the game, or lack of knowledge of the Coach's instruction to the team, in a way which causes problems.

We do not wish to curb your enthusiasm for the game. We do wish to make sure that your enthusiasm is channeled in a way which will be helpful, complies with the rules of the game, and is consistent with the Coach's instruction to the team. In this spirit, please keep these suggestions in mind as you attend Tophat soccer games:

(1) DO NOT YELL AT THE REFEREE--It is our goal to build not only good soccer players, but good sportswomen. Your positive, or negative, example at games will either greatly reinforce, or significantly undermine, that effort. The Coach or team captain has principal responsibility, although limited latitude, in speaking with the referee. Let them do their job when, and if, they feel it is necessary. And finally, with respect to tournament play, oftentimes one tournament team is given a special award for good sportsmanship. Your yelling and screaming at a game can do much to rob the kids of an opportunity to earn such an award.


(2) KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT THE RULES OF THE GAME--Sometimes, parental ill-will toward the referee is based upon a parent's ignorance of the rules of the game. Common problems are the understanding and application of the rules governing off-sides and illegal contact. For your education, in a later section of this Handbook, we have set out a limited explanation of some of the basic soccer rules which will help you become a better-informed fan.


(3) ENCOURAGE--DO NOT CRITICIZE--One of our goals is to help your daughter play good soccer. No less important is our goal to make every effort to insure that your daughter has fun. Your child understands the Club's high expectations of her and feels the peer pressure to do well. You can best help by confining your talk during the game to positive encouragement. The discussion later in this Handbook on becoming an "All-Star Parent" may be helpful to you in this regard.


If possible, be quietly enthusiastic and supportive. However, for those of you whose participation in and familiarity with other sports (football, basketball, baseball and so on) have ingrained in you an irresistible need to yell and scream during a sporting event, then we make the following suggestions.


Official List of Approved Cheers

"Win the ball!" The team that is aggressive in gaining and keeping possession of the ball usually wins.

"Let's go Hatters--you can do it!" A good, general purpose yell for a parent who feels compelled to yell something. It fits almost every occasion.

"Nice pass (or "shot", or "throw-in", or "tackle", or "save", and so on)" A nice, short yell, for a parent concerned that if too much is said, ignorance of the game may be revealed.

"Keep hustling, Hatters!" Another good, all purpose yell.

Official List of Prohibited Cheers

Any sentence or phrase which starts with, ends with, or includes the word, "Referee" or "Linesman" For example, "Are you blind, Referee?" or "She's offsides, Mr. Linesman--get in the game!"

"Kick it hard!" Possession of the ball is a primary goal in soccer. We are not playing "kickball." We try to teach the kids to pass the ball to teammates or to open space where teammates can win the ball. At times, because of defensive pressure or the proximity of the ball to our goal, we coach them to clear the ball long. But, unbridled encouragement of the kids to "kick it hard" can often be confusing.

"Go get the ball!" Be careful with this one. Winning the loose ball is important. But, we do not want to play "bunch ball," where all of the players run all over the field chasing the ball in a pack. Maintaining space, trusting your teammates to do their jobs, maintaining positions of support and attack are important.

Any negative comment directed at any player, especially your own daughter. This is the rule that separates the "All-Star Parents" from the also rans. When the votes are counted, into which group will you fall?

The Referees

There is a real shortage of qualified, experienced referees in the State of Georgia. We have some very good soccer referees, but we also sometimes encounter referees who, through lack of experience, do not make proper calls. We teach our players to think of the referee as a part of the soccer field. The field may be hard, bumpy, covered with water, short, long, and so on. The condition of the field and the weather are circumstances over which we have no control. So, we teach your kids not to worry or complain about those conditions over which we have no control. We try to adjust to them, but we do not yell or scream at the rain or the bare spots on the field. Try to think of the referees in the same way.


In order to fill the need for qualified referees in Georgia, all of the soccer clubs are encouraging their youth soccer players to become certified referees. Please remember the relative youth and inexperience of some of our referees. Let's not do or say anything which might discourage these kids from continuing as referees, and thereby add to our existing shortage of qualified referees.


All-Star Players Deserve All-Star Parents

A few years ago, Dr. Rob Gilbert wrote an article in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Journal on how to be an all-star parent. As your daughters move toward more competitive soccer, take a minute to consider Dr. Gilbert's Three B's For All-Star Parenting:

(1) Be There--You can never hope to be an all-star parent unless you show up at games. Regardless of the skill level of your child or the success of the team, go to the games. Be supportive. Don't be a fickle, fair-weather fan.

(2) Be Positive--When your daughter puts on her Tophat uniform, stop being a parent and become a fan. There's no trick to learn here. You already know what to do. Remember how you behaved when your daughter was learning how to walk? You were a fan and a supporter, weren't you? You applauded the "downs" as well as the "ups." You never said things like, "Why are you moving so slowly?" or "How come the kid next door is walking better than you?" or "Why do you keep making the same mistakes?" Why should it be any different now that your daughter is an athlete? Your job is not to be the coach or the expert. Be a fan. On the sidelines, if you can't say something positive, don't say anything at all.

(3) Be Seated--Even though it is good to be positive, it's not good to over do it. Don't stick out. Be an admirer - not a cheerleader. Players should not confuse your voice with the public address system.

Once you start to become a positive, acknowledging fan, an interesting thing may happen. Your daughter will want you at the games. You will know that you are considered an important member of your daughter's personal all-star support team.

A Mini-Education in Soccer for Parents

We believe that parents would be better fans, enjoy soccer more, and be better able to talk with their daughters about the sport, if they knew more about some of soccer's basics. Without providing too much detail, we offer the following basic education.


The Field Of Play

Also known as "the pitch," the soccer fields at Tophat are approximately 110 yards long and 70 yards wide.

Please note that, in order to allow the Linesmen to run up and down the touch-line, spectators are requested to stay at least five feet back from the touchline. Also, at many soccer complexes, the spectators are asked to sit on one side of the field, and the teams are required to stand on the opposite side of the field.


Laws of the Game

Without attempting to provide you with all of the rules of play, let us make an effort to acquaint you with the rules which govern illegal contact and offsides. These two subjects generate more than their fair share of parental confusion and frustration.

(1) The Offside Rule: A player is in an "offside" position if she is:

(a) ahead of the ball (closer to the opponent's goal line than the ball is), and

(b) in the opponent's half of the field, and

(c) there are fewer than two opponents ahead of or even with her. (A player is onside if she is even with the second to last opponent.)

A player in the offside position, described above, may be declared offside if she either:

(a) participates in play, or

(b) interferes with an opponent, or

(c) otherwise tries to take advantage of her offside position.

The position of the player at the moment the ball is played by a teammate determines whether she is offside. For example, if she were positioned onside at the moment the ball was passed by a teammate, she does not become offside if she runs to an offside position while the ball is in flight.

Exceptions: A player in an offside position is not declared offside if:

(a) the ball is last played by an opponent; or

(b) she receives the ball directly from a throw-in, corner kick, or goal kick.

If a player is declared offside, an indirect free kick is taken by the opposing team from the position of the offside player.

(2) Penal Fouls: There are nine penal fouls which, in order to be judged foul, must be committed intentionally:

(a) kicking or trying to kick an opponent;

(b) tripping an opponent;

(c) jumping at an opponent;

(d) charging an opponent violently or dangerously (that is, where either the charging player or the charged player could be hurt);

(e) charging an opponent from behind [Exception: an opponent who legally obstructs (screens the ball from an opponent while the ball is within playing distance) may be charged fairly from behind (shoulder to shoulder blade), if done safely];

(f) hitting, trying to hit, or spitting at an opponent;

(g) holding an opponent;

(h) pushing an opponent;

(i) handling the ball, except by a goalkeeper in her own penalty area [Note: handball is a foul when a player touches the ball with any part of his hand or arm while intending to control the ball.]

When a penal foul is committed, the opposing team is awarded a direct free kick, or a penalty kick, if the foul takes place in the penalty area.

(3) Non-Penal Fouls: There are five non-penal fouls:

(a) dangerous play, such as high kicking near another player's head or trying to play a ball held by a goalkeeper [Note: If a player puts herself in danger, the referee may call dangerous play against that player];

(b) fair charging (shoulder to shoulder contact without danger to either player) but with the ball out of playing distance (more than about one step away);

(c) illegal obstruction, i.e., a player intentionally putting herself between the ball and an opponent, when not within playing distance of the ball, to stop the opponent from playing the ball. [Note: the goalkeeper must not be obstructed when attempting to put the ball into play];

(d) charging the goalkeeper in her goal area when she is neither holding the ball nor legally obstructing an opponent;

(e) a goalkeeper:

(1) holding the ball for more than six seconds , or

(2) releasing the ball into play, then handling the ball again before another player touches it, or

(3) controlling the ball with her hands when intentionally passed back from the foot of a teammate, or

(4) otherwise wasting time.

When a non-penal foul is committed, the opposing team is awarded an indirect free kick. REMEMBER, HOWEVER, the referee may not stop play to punish a foul if, in his opinion, the fouled team is better off if he allows play to continue. This is called the "advantage clause."

See FIFA Laws of the Game for the most up to date information and complete details.


Rule Modifications For Younger Players

Please keep in mind that the younger age groups are still trying to learn the rules. As a result, the Club referees are instructed to use rule violations presented during a game as teaching opportunities. Also, some rules may be relaxed and some violations not strictly enforced at the discretion of the officials.