Call it a “bonding” ritual

There’s no delicate way to describe the game “Butts Up.” It is what it is. We’ve illustrated the ritual in detail on the blog on previous occasions, but here’s a quick recap for those who don’t feel like searching through the archives to understand the rules.

The game begins with a group of players standing in a circle. One player begins juggling the ball, then passes the ball off to another player, who is supposed to keep the ball in the air. He then passes the ball to another teammate, and the cycle goes on and on … until someone lets the ball hit the ground, and that’s when it gets fun.

After two players have let the ball drop and essentially “lost,” they receive their punishment. In the case of “Butts Up,” that punishment is standing on the goalline, facing the net, bending over, and letting each of your teammates take a free shot from the top of the box in an attempt to hit you in the backside. While it doesn’t seem all that enjoyable for the guys in the net, the players trying to hit their teammates with line drives are almost always at the opposite end of the spectrum, relishing the opportunity to let one fly.

This game happens from time to time, typically in smaller groups and without much fanfare. But today’s game had a different feel, with almost the entire team joining in by game’s end.

With a newcomer (Joseph Niouky) and two trialists (Gareth Williams, Andres Raad) on hand for their first session, the trio seemed understandably reluctant to get involved in the festivities from the start. Slowly but surely, however, they began to take an interest and wandered over to see what was happening. This progressed to the point where Niouky wanted in, so he lined up a 20-yard shot trying to hit a few of his teammates whom he’d just met approximately an hour earlier.

Unfortunately for Niouky, the decision backfired. Possibly unbeknownst to him, there’s an additional rule to “Butts Up” which says that if the shooter misses the net entirely, he must then join his teammates and stand in the line of fire for the rest of the round. Needless to say at this point, Niouky missed the net (as many players do when they’re trying to put a little extra “oomph” on the ball) and instantly put his head in his hands and began laughing when he learned his fate.

He was a great sport about it, though, and didn’t put up a fight as he took his place on the line. While the game might seem a bit odd to outsiders, it’s actually fantastic for team bonding and it was a great sign that Niouky joined right in without hesitation.

To cap it off, here are a couple of pictures from today’s proceedings …


A group of guys brace for impact as they hear the ball leave their teammates’ foot


Joseph Niouky lines up a shot on his new teammates, which unfortunately for him flew high and wide to the right


Kevin Alston lines up a drive with Joseph Niouky (far right) taking his place on the line


  1. backseat says:

    …and some call it hazing. For all the coaches out there, doing this with your kids can be a slippery slope. Hazing laws in MA are no joke and smashing balls at players who can’t defend themselves in the name of ‘bonding’ is tough to defend as a practice if you get called out.

  2. Stoehrst says:

    It’s not bonding when you no one is forced to participate. Desire wasn’t hazed, he joined his teammates for a game outside the regulations of training.

  3. Stoehrst says:

    by bonding I previously meant “hazing”

  4. Jeff Lemieux says:

    backseat – While I absolutely appreciate the sentiment regarding youth soccer, keep in mind that in this case these are all professional athletes who play this game by choice. None of these players has ever been forced to play “Butts Up” and I can’t imagine that any of them ever will.

  5. sam j says:

    people it is a game and if they dont want to play thats cool..it is for fun.

  6. Rugger says:

    My son’s team began this when they were little. The guys started it and were generally the ones who put it into play at practice. The coaches didn’t start it with the boys but they watched it to see who can put the ball where it needs to be. Are you an attorney or something?? Give it a break. It’s bonding and having fun. They may be “professional” soccer players but the big boys need to have some fun as well.

  7. Mike says:

    While I think backseat’s response is a little overkill, there is nothing wrong with pointing out to fellow readers that while this game is perfectly fine for the guys on the team, it should not be incorporated as a practice drill by an overzealous reader.

  8. Carrie says:

    I believe this is hazing…NO OTHER TERM FOR IT! My son’s team has been doing this all year, not only are you telling the winners that they have won and now have the power to hurt the losers, but gives them the right to haze those who lost. It is not a choice for team members to play this game and I feel for both the winners and losers. This is hazing-Hazing is a process, based on a tradition that is used by groups for discipline and to maintain the hierarchy (i.e., a pecking order).

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