Youth League Forces Parents to Sign Contract, Shut Up on Sidelines

Youth Soccer
AP Photo/Wilmington Star-News, Mike Spencer

Parents received “Silent September” forms to sign promising that they would not “cheer, yell or berate referees” during games at the South Carolina Youth Soccer Association.

On top of that, parents must sit on the opposite side of the field from their children’s bench. Violators of the new parent’s code of conduct will receive one warning. A second violation gets you tossed from the grounds.

Eric Adelson writing at Yahoo Sports believes that the ban on cheering and booing is a good one. He notes a personal story that illustrates just how bad things are out there: “A soccer referee works out at my gym. He travels all over Florida on the weekends and trains during the week. It’s not glamorous and it’s not lucrative. He told a story about calling a penalty kick late in a match involving teenagers. He needed a police escort to get to his car.”

And, one of his friends who refs at a youth soccer league told one of the parents to calm down at a game. The dad answered, “I’ll see you in the parking lot.”  So far this season he halted a game and declared a forfeit because of hostile fans.

Some of the youth league refs taking a beating from the parents are often only 15-years-old themselves. “When somebody does that to a kid who is 14 or 15 [refereeing a game], I don’t want to subject my kid to that. And the kid doesn’t want to come back out. There’s a huge exodus among refs. They feel the abuse factor,” said Adelson’s referee friend.

Kenneth Ayers, the state referee administrator for soccer in South Carolina said that each year they are only keeping about 30 percent of their referees. He adds, “We have 16, 15-year-old kids who are being berated and, quite frankly, assaulted by the sidelines.”

The head of Eton Academy in Michigan and former coach, Pete Pullen thinks the “September Silence” which calls for the temporary restraint, is “dead-on.”  He explained, “People forget the point of this experience, and that it’s a learning experience.”

Nevertheless, for those young refs who think it may get easier in the more advanced leagues they have another thing coming says Adelson, “This problem goes all the way up to the top echelon of sports. It’s hard to find a famous coach who doesn’t yell at referees. Leaders of men like Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo and Jim Harbaugh all do it. Far from criticizing it, media and fans adore it.”

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