This week in a U-10 girls’ match, the adult referee told the team before the match that it was, “okay to play with your elbows up as long as they did not go above your shoulder.” The end result was a match that mainly featured players keeping other players away from themselves (and the ball) with their arms bent / elbows up at shoulder height. It also featured players impeding other players’ progress with their arms bent / elbows up at shoulder height in order to maintain an advantageous position and not allow a player to get around them and make a play for the ball. My understanding has always been that the arms need to remain by the player’s side and cannot be used to shield or impede and that players can only be physical “shoulder to shoulder.” Your thoughts on this will be much appreciated.

USSF answer (September 14, 2011):
Coach, one of the things we tell both new and experienced referees is not to lecture players on how to play or on any other aspect of the game during the pregame activities. We referees have enough problems managing the game without also acting as coaches on the field. That is the job of the coach.

The arms should remain in a normal athletic position while playing soccer, used only to maintain balance or to aid in running faster. No elbows up, no pushing, no holding, no tripping.