A Plea to Coaches and Parents on Soccer Teams

Dear Soccer Coaches and Parents of Soccer Players,

I am a soccer mom and a team manger. My kids have been playing since they were five years old. I have three, the oldest being 19.  I have watched countless game in the sun, the rain and yes even in the snow. We've played down the street from our house, out of town, across the state and even across state lines. My soccer mom career has spanned 14 years from U5 to high school rec league.  We've been involved in the select soccer program with some of our kids.  All of our kids played soccer and are still playing soccer in some form even in college.  I was able to play for a season, both indoor and outdoor. My husband has played up until this year. He has coached and took a team from U5 to high school.  We know a thing or two about soccer. Though as a parent, before playing myself I had to learn somethings such as offside, the definition of a true handball (which is hand to ball not ball to hand in a natural position), the difference between free and penalty kicks.  I've watched my kids foul other kids, get yellow cards and display unsportsmanlike like conduct. Those are not proud moments but teachable ones. However, there is one thing above all else that I learned as a parent.  SOCCER IS A GAME.  Yes, that's right, it is a game. I've learned how to cheer on both teams, to respect the coaches, and not to yell at the referees.  You see I am a mother of three soccer players who are also referees. They are learning just as much as the kids playing the game. They and every referee out on the pitch have had to study for hours, take classes, pass tests, be observed and that is done each year. Each year they pay for their classes, their uniforms, and union dues so that they can be out on the pitch refereeing those games. They are observed, critiqued more than once and they go back out and fix their mistakes.  Before advancing to the next level, they go through these same steps each year. Then rain or shine, they lace up their cleats and go out on the pitch. There have been days when the sun beats down while the temperature rises and the referee will work that game and then onto another game with a drink of water at half time and between games, sometimes working from 8:00 in the morning to 5:00 at night.  Other days, it has been this cold blowing sideways rain, and the referees are out there, not just for that one hour game but for two, three, four or five games in a day, while you bundle up after a one hour game and swing in to get your double shot latte complaining that your referee was terrible. Yes, the referees will make mistakes, they will get the call wrong, they will have bad days, that is guaranteed.  They will also have great days, when they get the offside call correct, when each time the ball goes out, they make the correct call on who touched it last.  They will know when to allow advantage. There is a reason professional games have two assistant referees, a center referee and a fourth official.  Yet, they even make mistakes.  So my plea to parents and coaches is when a kid who is out on the pitch as a referee, please refrain from yelling at them.  What gives you the right to yell at someone who is 11, 12, 13, 14 years old and make them cry because you think they are doing a terrible job? They are learning. You are the adult.  Do you think they will call a better game if they are reduced to tears for 25 minutes while you continue to berate them through the game? Do you think that as a coach yelling at the referee and allowing the parents on the sidelines to start yelling will help keep referees out on the pitch, coming back to work 3 to 4 games in a day in all kinds of weather? There is a shortage of referees and it isn't because of the pay. It is the treatment from coaches and parents of teams in the U8, U9, U10 division. The U means under so the ages of the players span from 7 to 9 years old.  One of my kids has had to send a coach off the pitch because of behavior. When the coach wouldn't leave, that referee called the game.  These are recreation games, there are no scholarships for 9 year olds.  These games will not matter to the players in a week let alone 5 hours. However, the badgering, bullying and intimidation towards a referee will last days, weeks, maybe even a lifetime. So please, think, refrain, be the adult.  Approach the situation as an adult and talk to the referee, at half, after the game but do not keep up an onslaught of snarky comments and yelling.  As a mom of players and referees, please remember that this is a game for kids, not for you. Treat the referees, the other players, the other parents, the other coaches with respect and remember it is JUST A GAME.

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